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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
music
Sport
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
football
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
film
Life and Style
Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, is now worth $5.3bn
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn