TOULON have been dealt a blow on the eve of Saturday’s trip to Exeter Chiefs with the news that former England prop Andrew Sheridan could be forced to retire.
The 34-year-old injured his neck during the 15-9 win against Perpignan at the end of last month.
And Toulon boss Bernard Laporte admits the former Bristol and Sale player may have to call time on his career.
“Andrew is out for a month and possibly forever,” said Laporte.
“He has always had a problem between his neck and his shoulder. The surgeon has told him that it’s not necessary to have a new operation.
“He will now have a month of complete rest and if the pain doesn’t go away, then he will have to stop playing rugby.”
Sheridan’s absence was keenly felt last weekend as Toulon struggled up front and crashed to a 23-0 defeat in Paris against Stade Français, their heaviest loss of the season.
Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal criticised his side’s scrum after the defeat, slamming it as the worst in the Top 14.
And France centre Mathieu Bastareaud admitted they did not deserve to beat their hosts.
“23-0 – there is nothing more to say,” said Bastareaud. “Big congratulations to Stade Français, they played very well.
“Our opponents were very aggressive, they showed us what rugby really is. We tried, but we failed, we were heckled.
“The way we played today, we couldn’t possibly win the match.”
Laporte chose to rest some of his frontline players for the match, with the likes of England legend Jonny Wilkinson and former London Irish duo Delon and Steffon Armitage not making the trip to Paris at all.
However, the strength of Toulon’s squad was still evident as the likes of World Cup winners Bryan Habana, Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams featured, as did the likes of Michael Claassens, Frédéric Michalak, Martin Castrogiovanni, Carl Hayman, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and Johann van Niekerk.
Laporte has more depth to call on than most coaches, but needs a much improved display against Exeter, especially after five successive away defeats.