David Flatman: Corbisiero comes through tough test with flying colours

From the Front Row

Yesterday lunchtime a friend messaged me to turn on the TV and watch Scotland's historic win over England at Murrayfield in 1990. "The scrums are non-existent, mate," he said, "it's a joke." Well, I did take a look, and I couldn't have disagreed more. Sure, there was no engagement as such, but once the chaps had bound on and folded in with heads generally in the correct slots, it was war.

Jeff Probyn was giving David Sole all sorts of problems, turning him in on the angle, grabbing his elbow and twisting him in underneath the scrum itself and stamping brutally all over his back and side when he caved under the pressure. When an old dog with cauliflower ears tells you that, in his day, scrums were a dogfight, believe him.

In those days, England had a scrum to be afraid of. And that is not to say that since the likes of Probyn and Paul "Judge" Rendall retired it has become any less of an asset; we English have always managed to present well at the set-piece. But while we have seen some world-class props in the white jersey over the past 20 years – Jason Leonard and Phil Vickery are just two – it was not until the arrival of Andrew Sheridan that the fear factor truly returned. At his peak he was – or is – a player who, should you get it just a bit wrong, will butcher you without remorse. And now he is gone. By "gone" I mean off to Toulon to test himself at the famously intense French coalface, and this will render him all but ineligible for England selection.

So, as with much of this England team, we look to the next generation. We know that big, durable, technically sound Dan Cole can do the job. He will, fitness providing, be England's cornerstone for some time. Dylan Hartley, too, has become a very confident and powerful scrummager having spent a few seasons working between the twin behemoths of Northampton.

So we look to Alex Corbis-iero. This is the man who must, under severe pressure from the likes of Joe Marler, Matt Mullan and Nick Wood, make the No 1 jersey his for keeps. And taking on Euan Murray and his pals at Murrayfield was just the sort of rough examination he needed to come through with with his nose in front.

The contest at the scrum was every bit as fierce as the one we saw 22 years ago. The first scrum saw Murray put a real squeeze on and, through sheer relentlessness, drive his side forward. England survived but I, for one, was a bit worried. I needn't have been, because Corbisiero in particular showed real mental strength and resilience and came back to dominate at the very next opportunity. The two really big shunts of the game came from the England pack, both of which caused the Scotland front-row to stand up. Oddly, despite the incidents being near identical, penalties went both ways. These days...

Murray did manage to assert himself on an England put-in and this led to the presentation of the ball being pressured at the base of the scrum. Ben Youngs had to get it out as the pressure was coming on and he panicked, popping it to Chris Ashton instead of Charlie Hodgson. The Saracens-bound flyer was caught, the ensuing pressure leading to a sitter of a penalty for the Scots.

This, though, was a rare blemish against top-drawer opposition on a day when a young man took another early step towards filling some very big boots. Corbisiero was excellent again. He doesn't want to be the new Andrew Sheridan; he wants to be the next England prop to strike fear into the hearts of tightheads the world over. Some big nasty men are waiting for him, but he will only get bigger, uglier and nastier himself.

The future's bright.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
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

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?