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Surprise start for Corbisiero


Alex Corbisiero

Alex Corbisiero

Alex Corbisiero

Alex Corbisiero will make an unexpected England debut against Italy, the land of his forefathers, at Twickenham on Saturday after Andrew Sheridan was ruled out with a back injury.

The 22-year-old loose-head prop, whose grandfather emigrated from Naples to New York in the 1950s, had been preparing to play for London Irish against Newcastle. But when Sheridan damaged his back in training, England manager Martin Johnson opted to promote the uncapped Corbisiero straight into his starting XV and leave David Wilson on the bench.

"We think Alex is a solid character. We like solid characters. If you haven't got the character you can't go and play out there," Johnson said.

"That is what you need to be a Test player. It is whether they can handle the pressure and the physicality.

"I have been impressed with Alex whenever he has come in for training. He is a good guy. He is very humble but also very keen and he wants to work hard. I have been impressed with him as a bloke."

Corbisiero will pack down alongside Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole in a front row boasting just 36 caps and an average age of 23, believed to be England's youngest starting unit ever.

Opposite them will be the gnarled Italian trio of Salvatore Perugini, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Martin Castrogiovanni, who have 181 caps between them.

Italy coach Nick Mallett was aware that Corbisiero also qualified for the Azzurri but, unlike with Danny Cipriani, he did not make any official approach. There is a strong push in Italy against the selection of imported players unless absolutely necessary and Mallett is not short of quality props.

"Sheridan is a British and Irish Lion and a very powerful scrummager so he is obviously a loss for them," said Mallett.

"Corbisiero played against our A team and he is a very powerful loose-head. We followed him and there was a time when it would have been nice to give him a shot. But I am very happy with the props we have in Italy - it is one of our strengths."