The itch to flex muscle and scrummage returns but only fleetingly. The American dream has former British and Irish Lion Alex Corbisiero hooked to the extent that a Premiership and England renaissance is becoming increasingly improbable.
Since deciding to take an initial 12-month sabbatical from the game in December 2015, Corbisiero has found a new forte as an analyst for United States broadcaster NBC during its screening of English top-flight matches.
The 28-year-old would likely be inundated should he trigger a clamour for his signature by announcing a playing comeback, having won 20 England caps and performed a starring role for the Lions on their 2013 tour to Australia.
But the New York-born prop, surrounded by family members stateside, is in no rush to reprise his role in an English pack, and should his current employer wish to prolong his stay, Corbisiero would only be too happy to oblige.
“Seeing England go out to Australia and win 3-0 during the summer, and seeing Ireland beat the All Blacks at the weekend, games like that do make me miss it. The intensity and the big-game stage is what I loved as a player,” Corbisiero told City A.M.
“But at the same time being happy, healthy and fit, while enjoying myself and exploring new avenues has been very good for me.
“The repetitive nature of the rugby season – game after game after game – didn’t allow me to be at my best. The system didn’t suit me in that respect and I’m quite happy where I’m at. A lot rests with the longevity of the deal in America and where those avenues go.
“If there is not an avenue to pursue then you will probably see me cropping up somewhere in the summer. But if it keeps going the way that I want it to and we keep progressing and growing the audience and there is longevity for me out there then I will not be back playing in England.”
The backdrop to Corbisiero’s sabbatical was a series of career-threatening injuries and the fear of burnout. His time away from the game has allowed his war-wounded body to recover and his mind to be refreshed.
Player welfare is a hugely significant issue to the former London Irish bruiser, whose Northampton contract was terminated in January, and one he champions with passion and approaches with considered judgement.
He has previously suggested that game limits for England’s elite player squad members should be tailored to individual positions – 25 games of 60 minutes for props for instance – and continues to back greater focus on preventative care.
“The first thing I would do is limit contact in training,” said Corbisiero. “Once the season started I wouldn’t have full contact training in the week, I would save it for games or certain scenarios, much like the NFL where there is a limit on full-contact practice sessions.
“Secondly, it’s great that we have the head injury assessments, but I would love to make the spotters independent and the doctors that assess independent.
“That’s not because I think there is a lot of bad stuff going on, it would just eliminate any accusations of conflict of interest.
“Then I would like to look at enforcing the 32-game cap on players and how many games they can play in a season. There are a number of guys that played way more games than that last season.
“The big hurdle is when they get to the end of the season and players have reached 32 games and they’re playing for trophies and their countries; there is no player, coach or system that is going to tell someone to sit out those games.
“It’s something which needs to be addressed over the season and earlier in the season.”
Concern for player welfare has subsequently seen Corbisiero throw his weight behind the newly-launched N-Pro head guard, which aims to help reduce the impact of concussion and the severity of blows.
“What I like about the product is the fact that it is a medically-designed device which has a lot of testing and science behind it,” added Corbisiero.
“It looks like a normal head guard but it’s got six different layers of material which absorb the impact and disperse it.
“Other head guards are quite outdated and designed purely to avoid cuts, abrasions and to protect your ears, but this product attempts to address the issue. Anything that can reduce head trauma, even by a small amount, is beneficial.”
N-Pro is the world’s first rugby head guard with medical device classification and has been scientifically proven to provide impact protection. To find out more visit: www.n-pro.com, or follow @NproSPorts or facebook.com/NProSports