Andrew Sheridan

I was sorry to hear that Andrew Sheridan has been forced to retire due to a neck injury.

I’ll leave the on-the-pitch plaudits to people who know much more about the game than I do. But I’d like to add mine for something he did for me off the pitch.

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I wanted to set the second book of my Rugby Academy series in Toulon. But I needed access to the stadium and to see RC Toulon training. I had met Andrew at a Manchester Literature Festival event two years before, when he was at Sale. We’d had a chat. About his song-writing and about reading. He was very approachable. So – knowing he had moved to Toulon – I got in touch and asked if he could show me round the Stade Mayol in Toulon.

It was speculative. Sheridan is a British and Irish Lion, a European and English champion. He’s played for England 40 times. He was – at the time – involved in a campaign to win the French Championship and a second successive Heineken Cup. And – more importantly – he has a young family to look after.

But a few weeks later I found myself in Toulon with the big man walking towards me outside the Stade Mayol. Yes, he said, he’d love to help.095

Andrew Sheridan couldn’t have been more helpful. He showed me round the stadium, inside and out. Found me a place to sit and watch Toulon training, including the Armitage brothers and Jonny Wilkinson. It was a huge treat for a rugby fan. Let alone for a writer.

Then he sat with me and answered all my questions. About training. About Toulon. About rugby.

Invaluable. It’s access like that that makes or breaks a book.

Surface to Air isn’t out until February. But when it’s out I’ll be sending him several copies.

Thanks again Andrew. And good luck with your new career in the wine trade.