England prop glad to be over own setback and sure of squad depth.
INJURIES may be a consistent theme threatening to derail England’s World Cup bid but prop Alex Corbisiero insists the selection conundrum facing head coach Stuart Lancaster is made more fathomable by the squad’s residual strength.
Corbisiero’s latest war wound forced him onto the sidelines as a depleted England, deprived of seven British and Irish Lions at times, jostled for supremacy against southern hemisphere heavyweights during their autumn programme.
The prognosis is not too dissimilar for the impending Six Nations, with fly-half Owen Farrell, No8 Ben Morgan and second-row Joe Launchbury ruled out and a myriad of question marks lingering over the participation of other stars.
November’s adversity saw the likes of David Wilson, Dave Attwood and Joe Marler enhance their Test reputations, leading Corbisiero to believe exposure to frontline action has bolstered England’s armoury.
“It’s a reality of the game that these injuries are going to happen and I think English rugby is in a very good place with its strength in depth,” Corbisiero told City A.M.
“Injuries have opened the way to other guys and I think now there are options and combinations for Stuart and the coaches to figure out and I think that puts us in a very good place. At the same time, that competition also drives all the players involved to keep improving and performing at their best because no-one is safe and no places are secure.”
Corbisiero has endured a prolonged injury nightmare of his own, missing successive Six Nations campaigns and being limited to just four Test caps in more than two years, including a pair for the triumphant Lions against Australia in summer 2013.
The 26-year-old has made five appearances for reigning Premiership champions Northampton since returning in late December following surgery to cure his most recent setback, shoulder ligament damage.
But while the loosehead is primed to resurrect his England career against Wales in the Six Nations curtain-raiser in Cardiff a week on Friday, Corbisiero accepts the initial battle lies within the camp.
“Unfortunately, I have sat out a number of games, more than I would ever have wanted to over the last two years or so,” he added.
“It has been pretty tough but it makes it that much sweeter being back involved in an England squad, although I’m just focusing on playing well and hoping to get in there.
“I thought the pack was very dominant in the autumn. They were in superb form and are definitely one of England’s big weapons and it’s that strength in depth again. Look at my position: there is me, Mako [Vunipola] and Joe [Marler], and you could probably pick any of those guys at Test level and you’d be pretty happy. You are fully aware of the competition.”
The 2011 Six Nations was the Championship where it all began for 19-cap Corbisiero on the international stage, preceding a quarter-final exit to France at the World Cup in New Zealand later that year.
And while careful not to be drawn into setting England artificial targets to prove World Cup-winning pedigree this time around, the former London Irish front-rower acknowledges unblemished home form will be a major stimulus.
“That has to be a goal of ours and something we have to set out and aim to do, make Twickenham a fortress again,” said Corbisiero, whose side face Six Nations clashes against Italy, Scotland and France on home soil.
“That would be massively important for us and a very realistic aim of ours. A Grand Slam would be a big step towards building momentum going into that World Cup and a statement of intent.
“And with Wales in our group at the World Cup, getting on top of them to lay down a marker would be ideal. But really, there is a need for a combination of things. You want to produce consistent and quality performances and there will be times of adversity and a good team reacts and deals with those.”
Alex Corbisiero was speaking at the launch of FLEXISEQ Sport, the new drug-free treatment for professional athletes and other active people wanting to avoid joint pain and stiffness.