Wednesday 20 September 2017

Lancaster: Alex Corbisiero could make Lions Test team after late call-up

Alex Lowe

STUART LANCASTER backed Alex Corbisiero to mount an immediate challenge for a British and Irish Lions Test place after he left the England camp in Argentina to begin his long journey to Australia.

Corbisiero had been due to start for England in their first Test against the Pumas on Saturday and Lancaster had hoped he could play in Salta before heading Down Under.

But the England coach knew that for Corbisiero to mount a realistic challenge of making the Lions Test team he had to leave England's base in north-west Argentina today.

Corbisiero will arrive in Brisbane on Saturday, hours before the Lions play Queensland Reds, after nearly two days in the air with stops in Buenos Aires, Santiago and Sydney.

The 24-year-old will be available to play for the Lions against the Combined Queensland-NSW Country XV in Newcastle on Tuesday.

"If he wants to put a case forward I think it is right that he goes now," Lancaster said.

"In order for him to be a viable option for them he needs to available for next Tuesday's game.

"He could have (played against Argentina) but then he misses Tuesday's game and he is only there for next Saturday's game, which is a week before the first Test.

"I would never stop any player going to the Lions. He has been excellent for us.

"Depending on whether Cian Healy comes back into the selection equation, I think that Corbs will push Gethin Jenkins and Mako Vunipola.

"It has happened before in the Lions tour when players have come in and had opportunities (in the Test team) so I do think he will be there or thereabouts.

"I think Mako is playing exceptionally well from what I have seen so it is good from an England loosehead perspective."

Martin Corry became a Test Lion in 2001 after being called up from England's North American tour and Ryan Jones faced the All Blacks after being called up onto the 2005 tour of New Zealand.

Corbisiero had been in contention for a place in the initial Lions tour party but he missed out to Vunipola after a knee injury limited him to just five starts for London Irish and two for England.

The Northampton-bound prop shone in England's victory over New Zealand and he now feels fitter than ever.

Lancaster was impressed by his performances both in training and in England's victory over the Barbarians at Twickenham.

"We missed him in the Six Nations, there's no doubt about it and he has worked hard to get his form and fitness back with London Irish at the end of the season," Lancaster said.

"Certainly with us in training, he has been excellent. We had a live scrummaging session on Tuesday and he was very strong in the set-piece.

"From an experience point of view what Corbs will get out of this will be invaluable for him and for England.

"He's going to play for the Lions and he's going to a country we are going to play in the World Cup."

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