Alex Corbisiero admits his patience has finally paid off after earning selection for Saturday’s first Test between the British & Irish Lions and the Qantas Wallabies.
Corbisiero capped a remarkable turnaround in fortunes when he was selected at loosehead prop just two weeks after being called up as a late replacement for the injured Cian Healy.
The American-born 24-year-old spent much of the year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury that threatened to derail his promising career but has now been handed the ultimate honour in the opening rubber of the three-match series.
“There were definitely dark times when you’re sitting there and it's taking time, but there was light at the end of the tunnel and I'm glad I was patient. I made sure I got the knee right and now it feels all good,” said Corbisiero.
“I had my degree this year, I studied history (at the University of London), so that was there to occupy me. I just stayed patient: I knew that little by little it would come right, I'd get the rehab right. There's not much you can focus on but what is in front of you. You can't get stressed out and look back. I'm just glad I got through it.
“I’m thrilled to be involved, very proud and excited. I'm trying to stay calm but on the inside I'm screaming. I can’t wait for Saturday."
Corbisiero played just 12 games this season before being called up by Britain and Ireland’s elite but has made such an impression in his three matches on tour that he pipped fellow Englishman Mako Vunipola for the No1 shirt at the Suncorp Stadium.
Head coach Warren Gatland spoke openly about that particular selection call, stating that it was Corbisiero’s strong scrummaging technique that effectively saw him get the nod ahead of the Saracens youngster. In return, Corbisierio was quick to praise assistant coach Graham Rowntree’s influence on that area of his game ahead of what he expects will be a huge physical battle in Brisbane.
“He's an outstanding coach. His attention to detail is huge for me, working out bits and pieces around the park and increasing accuracy and efficiency. He’s had a massive influence on me,” added Corbisiero, who admits that the setpiece could play a major part in determining the outcome of Saturday’s Test.
"He's great to work for. He wears his heart on his sleeve and he's one of those coaches that makes you want to play for him. I've benefited massively from him.
“Every Test match Graham talks about what the setpiece means and every Test match we're very aware that if you don't get it right you can be on the back foot. We're just trying to control the controlables and get as much right as possible.
“I've just tried to focus on my setpiece, make sure it's consistent and be accurate and efficient around the park in everything I do. I've tried to make the most of every opportunity: every time I've had some game time I've tried to make an impact and show what I can do.
“We will focus on our drill at the scrum. We won't take them lightly and they won't take us lightly. It will be a key battle. Scrummaging is an eight-man effort, a pack mentality, it's attention to detail and everyone has to be switched on in terms of getting it right.
“People may have that perception (that the Wallabies have a weak scrum) but they play in the Rugby Championship against South Africa and New Zealand and Argentina, some of the best packs in the world. They hold their own and get stuck in so there's no way we can take them lightly.
“I've not played against them before, I missed out last autumn and I'm looking forward to it. They have a good pack, they're well drilled and they will put us under pressure. We will have to try to meet them physically.”