Light at end of tunnel for Lions prop Corbisiero

NICK MULVENNEY
Last updated 06:52 21/06/2013

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Alex Corbisiero's selection to start the first test for the British and Irish Lions marked a remarkable turnaround for the England prop at the end of an injury-ravaged season that prompted questions about his future in the game.

Called up as a replacement after injuries to looseheads Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins, the 24-year-old joined the Lions squad in Brisbane 11 days ago after a marathon journey from England's tour of Argentina.

Back in the Queensland capital again on Thursday, Corbisiero was chosen for Saturday's first test at Lang Park over compatriot Mako Vunipola because of his superior scrummaging and was unsurprisngly delighted at his inclusion.

"I'm absolutely thrilled to be involved this weekend. I'm very proud and very excited about the challenge ahead," he told reporters on Thursday.

"Every time I had a bit of game time, I tried to make an impact, I tried to show what I was able to do in this environment. I'm just very glad to get the nod."

For Corbisiero, his selection was also was vindication of all the hard work he had put in recovering from knee injuries that virtually wiped out his season and removed him from contention for the original Lions party.

"There was definitely some dark times this season when you are sitting there and you're frustrated and it's taking its time," he recalled.

"It's just good that there was a light at the end of the tunnel and I was patient and I made sure I got it right the second time and now it feels all good."

Corbisiero, the only one of eight players added to the initial test squad of 37 named in the team for Saturday, said he gave little thought to those who doubted he would ever play at the elite level again.

"That's all in the past now and I'm just looking forward," he said. "Anyone who has had some questions about me in the past, I'm trying every week to prove them wrong.

"I've got a long future in the game and ... I'm just looking forward to the test and playing the best that I can."

REAL BATTLEGROUND

The days when English props would expect to crush Australia's front row before a match are perhaps gone and Corbisiero was never likely to make any bold predictions given his lack of familiarity with the Wallabies.

"I've not played against Australia before, this is my first time," the New York-born prop said. "I was a bit gutted to miss out on the Autumn match against the Aussies.

"They're a good pack, they're well-drilled and they are going to put us under pressure and we'll have to try and beat them physically.

"We're just going to look to focus on our drill at the scrum and get it right every time. If we can put pressure on we will, but we're expecting a big challenge from them and I don't think they'll take us lightly and we won't take them lightly either.

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"I think it's going to be one of the real battlegrounds of the test this weekend."

Corbisiero will pack down with England team mate Tom Youngs at hooker and Welsh tighthead Adam Jones, another new experience for him.

"I'm really looking forward to playing with Adam, he's a quality practitioner, very efficient around the park and his set piece is outstanding," he said.

"We're going to look to get a good platform for our boys and make sure our drill is accurate in the set piece as possible."

- Reuters

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