Have you ever broken wind in a scrum?
Not me. But I’ve been down there when someone clearly has let one go. It’s hard to maintain focus when a stink musters up. There should be a list of scrum etiquette in dressing rooms. “No guffing” is number one.
When were you last afraid?
No, sorry, I can’t remember that ever happening. I’ve been shaken but never afraid. This year against Wasps someone’s head went straight into my face. I knew something was badly wrong because my eyes were wide open but I couldn’t see a thing. After five minutes my vision started to come back. I had three tears in my retinas.
Did you cry in front of the lads?
No, I was too freaked out to get emotional. I thought my eyes were closed, but I couldn’t physically open my eyelids. So I was jabbing my fingers in to lift my eyelids up, making things worse.
Is it true you once played an entire game with a broken leg?
Yeah, during the Lions tour. I told the doctor I had a sore leg, so he took me in for a scan. But he didn’t go far enough up my leg to find the fracture. He put it down to a calf strain, and it wasn’t until after the tour that they found a healing fracture on my fibula.
Yeah it had been broken so long, it had started to heal itself.
How many hours of rugby had you played in that state?
From April right the way through to the end of June. So with training and that, way over a hundred hours.
Is that the worst injury you’ve ever played through?
Oh no. I had a broken jaw that was diagnosed as a wisdom tooth problem. After a week of grumbling about it, I went to the dentist to get it sorted. He pointed out that my jaw had snapped mid-game.
Have you ever wished you were Kiwi so you didn’t have to get blood stains out of white shirts?
Well, the All-Blacks shirts are kind of cool but no, all our England shirts get washed for us so it’s okay. I’m quite happy being English at the moment even if we have to play in white.
Has your mum ever cried when you’ve brought her your laundry?
Yeah, I do always seem to end up with the muddiest, bloodiest shirt on either side for some reason. I’ve broken her washing machine a fair few times by clogging it up with half the pitch and someone’s blood.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen happen to someone else in a match?
One game, in the middle of a scrum, one of the second row had realised his prop was in trouble, so he’d sent a punch through the pack. He ended up twatting his own hooker.
When it all kicks off, does everything go into slow motion?
No, not at all. It all happens so fast, you just have to kind of dive in and react through the whole blur. Then after the game you watch it all back in super-slow motion to work out what you actually did, and how you could react differently next time.
So it’s not just a post-match piss-up?
Oh no. It surprises people but we’re the most professional people in sport. Every single move I make in a game is analysed on video. After a game my coaches know every inch I’ve run, my average speed, everything.
How far do you run during a game?
As a prop, not as far as some of the others. But I tend to do about seven or eight kilometres per match.
And how much do you weigh?
Nineteen-and-a-half stone. I tend to stay at that weight, but if I have an enjoyable summer I might come in over 20 before pre-season training.
Have you ever broken your scales?
Yeah. Electronic ones don’t like me. If I step on them, it always says “error”. Things like that have been happening all my life. As a baby I broke my pushchair because I was so heavy.
What do you eat in an average day?
Healthy stuff. A few bowls of porridge, some poached eggs, a couple of salads, fruit, a lot of veg, a kilo of meat, protein shakes and vitamins.
Do you have to buy two seats on planes?
No. England are always quite good, they always put me in business class so that I fit. It’s quite funny though because when I walk on a plane, you do see peoples’ faces drop in fear that I’m going to sit next to them.
Could you bench-press a bear?
How much does a bear weigh?
Well, an average female Grizzly comes in at about 175 kilos…
Oh, I can do 215 kilos, so yes. I wouldn’t want to get near a bear though, what if they bit me?
Footballers all drive Navigators or Astons, what do rugby players drive?
I just bought a Mitsubishi Carisma. But it’s not a style thing to be honest – if we earned the same as footballers, most of us would be just as flash.
Is it true that props temporarily shrink after big games?
It’s not temporary. By playing prop I have lost a whole inch in height over the years. Because I slam into people so hard, I’ve compacted my spine.
How long does it take to recover after a big game?
After our last All Blacks game I couldn’t feel my arms until my fourth pint. It took four days before I started feeling 100% again.
As such a hard bloke, why the hell are you known as “Big Ted”?
When I joined Sale Sharks, the lads read they’d just signed Sheringham. They were like, “Why the hell has Teddy Sheringham started playing rugby? This is never going to work!” When I turned up, the name stuck…
“Sharks” isn’t very apt for Sale is it? Surely it should be Sale Whippets ?or Squirrels?
What’s wrong with Sharks? We’d look silly when we come out to the Jaws music if we were Sale Squirrels. And what about Sharky the mascot? What would happen to him? You haven’t thought this through…
We’ll move on. How mental did Sir Clive go after you got sin-binned for the Lions [Andrew was yellow-carded for punching New Zealand Maori Luke McAlister]?
Well, he never brought me back on, so he wasn’t best pleased. He wanted to know what was going through my head, to which I replied, “Not a lot.” Luckily he’s not a screamer.
How do you deal with a situation like that personally?
It wasn’t tough. The guy had butted me, whether it was deliberate or not, I don’t know. But it was my instant reaction at the time to throw a punch. I missed anyway. I’d probably do the same if it happened again.
As rugby’s “a gentleman’s game” did you apologise to him afterwards?
No. To be honest there’s not a lot that’s gentlemanly about rugby. It’s very physical – I don’t know where the daft tag has come from.
Do you think Sir Clive will be successful in football?
It’ll be interesting. He had a lot of success in rugby, and there’s no reason why he can’t organise the right structure at a football club. That’s his real strength.
Will he be ready for the R&B mush footballers listen to on the coach?
Unfortunately, rugby players are just as bad. On the England coach, we listen to that B.I.G. chap and all that muck. It’s terrible stuff really – but it’s meant to get your aggression going.
Aren’t you into folk songs though?
Yeah, I write my own folk songs on my guitar. I’m probably not much good but I enjoy singing in my room.
Sing us a rugby-themed ballad…
No! I only do very sad songs, about stories that I’ve made up. Actually, it’s an England tradition for the new guy to sing on the coach on the way to their first game. I had to sing Kenny Rogers in front of all of them as they hurled abuse at me. I’m never singing in public again.
Finally, have you ever played rugby with a melon when out of balls?
Never melons, but I always played with the weights off my dumb-bells when I was a kid. It does add something to the game when the ball is that heavy. I was quite good at dumb-bell rugby.
Original interview by Lee Coan in the March 2006 issue of FHM UK magazine