After I was sadly unable to attend an afternoon hosted by ‘bmi’ at Pennyhill Park, we spoke to Alex Corbisiero on the phone. The afternoon included a training session hosted by Corbisiero, Manu Tuilagi and Nick Easter, and Alex was full of praise for the writers and bloggers who took part, describing them as “good sports who worked hard and enjoyed it”, although he did not get fully stuck into them as he was resting following the hard work going on at the England training camp.
Corbisiero was keen to stress though how much he had been enjoying the camp, which although challenging and hard work had been thoroughly enjoyable so far, and key to his long term development as a player. In what he described as a “unified, friendly but competitive group of players”, Alex said that the vibe in the camp was excellent. The training hasn’t been all routine however, with the players taking part in wrestling sessions to enhance their fitness and contact skills, and also early morning Mountain Bike sessions in the woods around the base. The image he described of Martin Johnson & John Wells positioned at the back keeping an eye on the slackers is priceless.
Despite the amicable nature of the squad, Corbisiero commented that there was still a definite rivalry between the players, including in his area of expertise with the props, which in his eyes is necessary for the squad to be competitive; “Everyone here is desperate to go, and everyone here is good enough to go, it’s just a case of the numbers. All the competitive streaks though are left on the field, so we have a united squad”
Having broken into the setup during the Six Nations, I asked Alex if he now felt like a more established member of the squad after a few months training with the national side; ” I’d say I felt more established than some of the newer guys who’ve just come into the squad, but I wouldn’t say I felt like a key squad member yet and hopefully that will build over time. I’m very happy to be here, I was fortunate enough to be selected during the Six Nations, and hopefully I’ll continue to stay here.” He did comment though that with the more time spent in the national setup, the more relaxed he began to feel having grown a stronger relationship with the coaches and other squad members. Alex added that this relaxation in the camp was positive as long as he didn’t become complacent on the field, and generally was making him feel like a better player. It was though “impossible to take off your foot off the pedal without getting exposed at this level so you must always be on top of your game.”
One of Corbisiero’s greatest qualities to his game is his flexibility to play on both sides of the scrum, something he has done to great success at club level with London Irish. Asked whether this was something the England coaches had planned for him as well, he stated that he had been working with Graham Rowntree to maintain his tighthead work long-term. He added that he didn’t see why he couldn’t play at both sides at Test level in a few years time, admitting that his loosehead work at International level was at the moment stronger than on the tighthead side.
Rounding up with the most important question, I asked Alex just what it would mean for him to go to the World Cup in a few months time. He responded by saying that it would be “absolutely fantastic to be picked, but there’s a lot of hard work to be done yet in order to be selected.” Personally, along with Matt Stevens behind Andrew Sheridan and Dan Cole, his place is guaranteed.
Alex Corbisiero was speaking on behalf of the England Rugby Team and bmi, the official airline to the England Rugby Team. For information on flights offers and other news visit flybmi.com ; facebook.com/flybmi or follow us on Twitter @flybmi
by Ben Coles