Alex Corbisiero insists England and Northampton will benefit from the confidence-enhancing end to his British and Irish Lions tour.
Corbisiero was overlooked for the original squad for Australia after making an end of season comeback from a knee problem that London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith described as “degenerative”.
The 24-year-old, who has swapped the Madejksi Stadium for Franklin’s Gardens, missed the RBS 6 Nations but returned in time for England’s tour to Argentina and was then summoned by the Lions when injury struck.
A surprise selection for the first Test, he emerged as one of the Lions’ key players with head coach Warren Gatland viewing him as man of the match in the series-clinching decider in Sydney.
The loosehead prop helped demolish Australia’s scrum and was a major force in the loose, leaving him to reflect on an extraordinary experience that surpassed his expectations.
“I went from just being happy to be healthy and back playing, getting ready for a Test in Argentina, when all of a sudden I face a massive journey to Australia and I’m in the middle of a Lions tour,” he said. “There was an opportunity there and I tried to make the most of it. Playing in those Tests was incredible. The experience is very hard to describe, it was incredible.
“I underestimated how special a Lions tour is, so to experience it first hand was incredible.
“Being in the same dressing room with Paul O’Connell, Brian O’Driscoll and Sam Warburton – the last three Lions captains in one team – is something I’ll always remember.
“The last Test was incredible – the emotion, relief and euphoria of winning was very special.
“I was very happy with my all-round game in that final Test, my strength in the set-piece and what I did around the park. It was one of my best performances.
“For someone like Gatland – a man who I respect so much – to say that means a lot and gives me massive confidence for the new season. “It was great to end such a tough season with that type of achievement.
“I’m healthy, rested and looking forward to pushing on with Northampton and England.”
England will enter their autumn internationals against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand with two top looseheads in Corbisiero and Mako Vunipola, who was selected in the original Lions squad.
The rampaging Vunipola started the second Test in Melbourne when Corbisiero went down with a calf problem.
But his vulnerability at the scrum was exposed and he was replaced once his England team-mate had recovered. When the autumn arrives, Corbisiero is almost certain to start with Vunipola providing firepower from the bench.
“I really enjoy being in the squad with Mako,” Corbisiero said.
“He’s a good guy on and off the field, an outstanding player.
“What he’s achieved in the last year has been incredible.
“The competition will only strengthen both of us.
“We’ll both be fighting to start, but also be happy to come off the bench.
“It is a position of strength because there is Joe Marler as well.”