- Alex Corbisiero looks back on an excellent 12 month in an England shirt
- But loosehead prepared to take it up a notch in South Africa
Alex Corbisiero looks back with satisfaction on a 12-month period which has seen him emerge as England’s dominant loosehead but the 23-year-oid is in no mood to get complacent ahead of the daunting trip to South Africa.
After travelling to Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand and making one start and appearing three times off the bench, the London Irish man started all five matches in the 2012 RBS 6 Nations and emerged with immense credit against a shuddering list of tighthead opponents.
Corbisiero faced British and Irish Lions pair Euan Murray (Scotland) and Adam Jones (Wales), Italy No.3 Martin Castrogiovanni , France rock Nicolas Mas and Ireland’s Mike Ross as Stuart Lancaster’s side won a historic three away games to finish second in the Championship.
But starting with the world cup, the 15-cap prop said the experience of playing in New Zealand against and among so many top players reinforced the importance and responsibility of playing for England.
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He said: "It was a massive learning experience for me. At such a competitive level as the world cup it really opens your eyes to how big rugby is and the responsibility you have as a player.
“I thought I grew as a player – I was playing with experienced veterans of the game who were in that world class tier. I was able to put that behind me, take the lessons from it and build on the Six Nations this year, which was a really positive experience.”
Typical for a man described by Mike Catt as epitomising the character Stuart Lancaster wants in his squad – that of ultimately working to the limit for your mate next to you – Corbisiero rejects personal credit for his scrummaging performances in the Six Nations.
He talks about the satisfaction for an eight-man group, plus the bench, of seeing training bear fruit on the pitch and highlights the Ireland victory, when the scrum earned a penalty try and won the penalty which set up Ben Youngs’ clincher, as the pinnacle.
“It was a good performance, not just me, but as a whole pack,” he said. “Scrummaging is an eight-man job and we worked hard as a pack, scrummed technically sound and I think it showed.
“Everyone can hold their hand up and say they were part of it and it was great to come out intact and with some dominant performances in some of the games.
“Ireland was a big test, especially for the pack and the front row. We found a weakness in their game on that day and went to expose it. We built from there, the crowd got involved and it felt like it demoralised them a bit. And after having a tough outing against them it was a good feeling to be able to do that.”
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But Corbisiero is not ready to bask in the acclaim ahead of the brutal mental and physical challenges awaiting England in South Africa, with three Tests and two midweek matches in the space of 15 days this June.
Taking a mature attitude of working hard, controlling what he can control and giving South Africa the best he possibly can, Corbisiero added: “Obviously you’re aware of what you’ve achieved but you can’t take your foot off the pedal – it took a lot of hard work and dedication to get that result.
“To do it again against a team like South Africa is going to be a massive challenge but we’re just going to control what we can control, prepare as best we can and go out there and give them the best competition we can.”