London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith believes prop Alex Corbisiero could be one match away from an England return after making his first start of the season as the Exiles opened their LV=Cup campaign with a 34-28 home win over Sale Sharks.
The 24-year-old loosehead, who suffered a knee injury on England’s summer tour of South Africa, played for 62 minutes before being withdrawn and turned in a solid performance.
“Alex has been in with the England camp so he knows what’s going on there,” Smith said.
“If he puts in another good performance against Leicester next week I’m sure he’ll be throwing his hat in the ring for England if they feel that Joe Marler needs a rest.”
Smith revealed that Corbisiero played for longer than originally intended to help Irish turn the match around after trailing 21-10 at half-time.
“Had things been going better we would probably have only played him for the first 40 minutes,” he said. “But we had half a dozen scrums on their line and he hung tough for us, but we got him out of the contest at the right point for him and for us.”
Smith was also pleased with former England utility back Shane Geraghty’s first start since returning to the club from Brive during the summer. Geraghty, who has struggled with a groin injury, capitalised on an interception to score the Exiles’ fourth try, which clinched the bonus-point win, and Smith said: “He’s a good player and we’ve done the right thing. We’ve taken good care of him and I think we’ll reap the benefits of that going forward.”
Sale chief executive Steve Diamond, back in control of the team as director of rugby following the demotion of Bryan Redpath, said: “We’re disappointed.
“One or two of our players showed their naivety, losing control when they were in control. We had three or four scrums on our own line and got out of it and then had a poor kick out which cost us.
“We had the game and should have won it, but we gave 19 soft points away. It was another of those occasions when we haven’t capitalised on the position we are in. It was good to get the (losing) bonus point at the end but I was disappointed with our second-half performance.”
One plus for Sale was another fine performance from fly-half Danny Cipriani, keen to revive his England career after returning from Australia to join the Sharks this season.
Cipriani contributed 18 points with a try, three penalties and two conversions and Diamond added: “Danny did well. He’s controlling (the game).”
Assistant coach Ricky Pellow was delighted with his side’s performance after Exeter ran out emphatic 42-15 winners over London Welsh in their tie at the Kassam Stadium.
The visitors scored four of their six tries in the final quarter, with Nic Sestaret and Jack Nowell both going over twice, to blow away their hosts who had led 9-8 at half-time.
Will Carrick-Smith and Mark Foster touched down for Exeter before their late blitz, with Henry Slade adding 12 points from the boot.
“It was a good battle for the first 40-50 minutes and throughout the game we carried the ball well and controlled the game,” Pellow said.
“In the first half we lacked a bit of precision but we were always creating chances. Jack Nowell has been knocking on the door since pre-season. He has the ability to beat a man and can’t be far off a call up to the Premiership.”