England fear Alex Corbisiero will miss the entire spring

Serious concern about forward facing second knee surgery as Tuilagi remains on sidelines

The red-rose hierarchy are doing their best to put a brave face on it, but the immediate future of England's senior loose-head prop Alex Corbisiero is clearly causing Stuart Lancaster and company serious concern. The London Irish forward's chronic knee problems require a second bout of surgical intervention and while the imminent operation is considered to be relatively minor, its potential implications are significant.

One of the key figures in Lancaster's rejuvenated pack – the head coach regards him as one of his "go-to men" when the stakes are at their highest – Corbisiero will definitely miss the opening Six Nations games with Scotland and Ireland. There is no guarantee he will feature at any stage of the tournament, even though the player himself has dismissed talk of a "degenerative knee condition" and expects to be playing club rugby early next month.

"His knee keeps swelling up after small amounts of exercise," Lancaster reported. "There's a loose body in there somewhere and it needs cleaning out. His knee locked up when we were in South Africa last summer and since then we've struggled to get him training and playing consistently. A lot depends on this next procedure, but we're optimistic."

At 24, Corbisiero is still in the foothills of his front-row career, and some of those working with him believe he would benefit by switching to the tight-head side of the scrum, thereby easing the pressure on his troublesome knee. As things stand, England are not the only ones worrying about his prospects. Northampton, who have signed him for next season at considerable expense, are also wondering what the next few weeks might hold.

England may also start the Six Nations without the free-scoring Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi, whose "human bowling-ball" style has been a feature of the national side's attacking game in recent matches. Tuilagi is suffering from ankle trouble and will have to prove his fitness by the weekend if he is to play a part against the Scots.

According to his club, he was 20 minutes away from facing Toulouse in last Sunday's big Heineken Cup match at Welford Road. As far as England are concerned, he is many hours away from being able to train properly, let alone play. If he withdraws, Lancaster could simply replace him with the London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph or re-jig his entire midfield by restoring Toby Flood of Leicester to the outside-half position and moving Owen Farrell of Saracens further out.

Alex Goode, the first-choice full-back, has recovered from a shoulder injury and is expected to shake off the after-effects by turning out for Saracens this weekend. The news on Tom Johnson is far worse. The Exeter flanker suffered a nasty knee injury last weekend and is likely to be incapacitated for at least three months.

As for the Gloucester outside-half Freddie Burns, the exciting newcomer to the Test squad will spend the next three weeks on the casualty list after damaging knee ligaments last week.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future