Alex Corbisiero set off for Australia from Argentina today with his sights set on winning a British and Irish Lions Test place.
The 24-year-old prop, who joins Saints from London Irish this summer, was called up from England’s tour as cover for Cian Healy, who suffered an ankle injury in the Lions’ 69-17 victory over Western Force and also faces a biting allegation.
But Corbisiero, who had been due to play for England against Argentina in Salta on Saturday, insisted he is not heading Down Under just to make up the numbers.
“I am going there to be first choice and to put my hand up,” Corbisiero said.
“It’s going to be a big challenge and there are so many quality players out there. Just to go out there is amazing, but once I’m out there I want to get in the Test team.
“I am really excited. I feel very proud to be included and involved in something as prestigious as the Lions.”
If Corbisiero succeeds in forcing his way above England colleague Mako Vunipola and Wales’ Gethin Jenkins he will emulate the likes of Ryan Jones in 2005 and Martin Corry in 2001, who both arrived late on tour and ended up in the Lions Test team.
“It is definitely possible to get in the Test team,” Corbisiero said.
“I’ve just got to focus on my first game and to play well in that one and then the next one.
“I’m just trying to stay calm. I’ve just got to keep my feet on the ground because there is a big challenge ahead.”
Corbisiero will take four flights from Salta to Brisbane, via Buenos Aires, Santiago and Sydney.
He was informed of his call-up by England coach Stuart Lancaster and then went for a walk to have a look around Salta, where England are gearing up to face the Pumas.
“I was really looking forward to the first Test against Argentina,” said Corbisiero, whose place in the England starting line-up will be taken by Joe Marler.
“We have put a lot of hard work in and we have got an opportunity to put a statement down - Argentina is a hard place to win so part of me is gutted to miss that but part of me is excited to be out there with the Lions, which is one of the most prestigious things in rugby.”
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.
“This season was frustrating with injuries and that took me out of the running for the Lions. I only had a run of two games by the time they picked this squad,” he said.
“It was on my radar as a goal this season and I am very grateful I have ended up there.”