England prop Sheridan out of Italy game

by RUGBY.com.au staff

England prop Andrew Sheridan has been ruled out of Saturday's Six Nations clash with Italy after suffering a back injury, team manager Martin Johnson said on Friday.

Powerful loosehead Sheridan will be replaced in England's starting line-up by London Irish's Alex Corbisiero, who will be making his Test debut in the front row.

Corbisiero - who was not in England's 22-man squad for the Italy game - is promoted ahead of David Wilson, who remains on the bench.

Johnson said he had no qualms about pitting Corbisiero against Italy's powerful scrum, where he will be packing down against Leicester's Martin Castrogiovanni.

"We have no qualms putting him in there at loose-head and starting. David covers loose-head from the bench but Alex has more experience there," Johnson said. "We trust all the squad to play."

Corbisiero was born in New York, where his grandfather moved to from Naples in the 1950s to start a restaurant.

The 23-year-old has played for England at every age group since the under-18s and was a member of the under-20s side which won the Grand Slam in 2008. He has made 21 appearances for London Irish this season including seven starts.

Meanwhile, England fullback Delon Armitage has lost his appeal against an eight-week ban for abusing an anti-doping official.

Armitage can play again on March 17 -- but as that is just two days before England conclude their Six Nations campaign against Ireland, he is highly unlikely to be selected by manager Martin Johnson for the match in Dublin.

The London Irish back was banned for "conduct prejudicial to the interests of the sport" following an incident where he was alleged to have pushed an anti-doping officer after the Exiles' game against Bath on New Year's Day.

The 27-year-old Armitage challenged what he said was a "disproportionate" ban but appeal panel chairman Ian Unsworth said they were in no doubt the original hearing had reached the correct verdict.

"We came to the conclusion that having regard to the seriousness of this matter and considering the aggravating and mitigating features that the decision and sanction reached by the original panel was fair, reasonable and one which they were entitled to," Unsworth said in a Rugby Football Union (RFU) statement.

"Mr Armitage was aggressive, bullying, persistent and threatening. He subjected the Doping Control Officer to a volley of abuse and he deserved better than that."

Trinidad-born Armitage, who returned a negative test, has won 19 England caps and had been named in Johnson's squad for the Six Nations although he had lost his place in the starting line-up to Ben Foden last season.