Refreshed Corbisiero relishing return
It always starts up front against the Springboks – more often than not, it ends there too – so there will be a heap of pressure on the returning England prop Alex Corbisiero at Twickenham this weekend.
Corbisiero's four-month recovery from a serious knee injury suffered in South Africa last summer will be completed when the red-rose coach Stuart Lancaster confirms the 24-year-old in the starting line-up today, with the highly-rated Saracens youngster Mako Vunipola staying on the bench.
"I feel pretty confident that I'm ready," the London Irish forward said yesterday. "It's never easy after a long lay-off: we're talking about Test rugby, which is always tough, and about the Boks, who are always very physical in their approach.
"But I feel I'm fitter than at any time in my career: I don't eat wheat or dairy produce now – my nutritionist at the club suggested I have a blood test, which showed I was highly intolerant to both – so that keeps me on the straight and narrow. And after the frustrations of the defeat by Australia last Saturday, we all feel we have a point to prove."
Corbisiero, one of the cleverer footballing forwards available to Lancaster, will replace the Joe Marler of Harlequins, who would have been dropped had he not picked up a knee injury of his own against the Wallabies.
"Joe didn't have his best run against Australia but he's an international prop for a reason and he'll learn from that game," remarked the Exiles player. "The Wallabies were street-smart in the scrum. We have to make sure that people don't get away with those things again."
There were strong indications yesterday that Joe Launchbury, the young Wasps lock, will make a first start in the engine room, having impressed twice off the bench this autumn. Both senior second-rowers, Tom Palmer and Geoff Parling, have been suffering from aches and strains since the Wallaby game and Palmer's calf problems are continuing to give cause for concern.
With Corbisiero's club-mate, the centre Jonathan Joseph, earmarked for bench duty, the Harlequins full-back Mike Brown is expected to fill the vacancy on the left wing created by Lancaster's decision to drop Charlie Sharples of Gloucester.
It is a risky ploy, but the coach likes the idea of playing two No 15s as a way of nullifying the Boks' potent kicking game.
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