Corbisiero hails ‘world class’ Mako Vunipola
England’s Ford rules out joining father at Toulon
Alex Corbisiero believes England successor Mako Vunipola is now the “best loosehead prop in the world”.
Vunipola has been in fine form for English and European champions Saracens so far this season, with his work at the set-piece-once a source of criticism-as well as in open play winning impressive reviews.
The injury-hit Corbsiero, who started a sabbatical from rugby last year after winning 20 England caps and two for the British and Irish Lions, was in no doubt of Vunipola’s all-round quality. “In my opinion Mako is the best loosehead in the world and I will defend that view against anyone. He’s moving into a class of his own,” Corbisiero said. “His set piece has become so consistent and it’s ever-improving. He’s becoming a dominant scrummager.
“Everything he does around the field is incredible - his work-rate, his defence, his turnovers, his carrying, offloads, passes out the back.” Corbisiero, speaking at an event to launch the N-pro head guard, which aims to reduce the risk of concussion, added: “He’s never in the wrong position and is a great, intelligent rugby player who makes the right decisions who can make an impact while covering the basics that a prop needs to do.”
England scrum coach Neal Hatley said the set-piece game of Vunipola, whose brother Billy is Saracens and England’s No 8, had come on leaps and bounds.
“Mako has been absolutely outstanding for Saracens in the first half of the season,” Hatley said. “There aren’t many props in world rugby that can do what he does with the ball in hand. “His set-piece has come on immeasurably.
“Sometimes people get pigeon-holed as a carrying prop or a scrummaging prop and I think he crosses that divide. “He’s been very sound from a set-piece point of view. We’ve made a few little technical changes to his bind and that’s had a real positive effect.
“There are a lot of good players around, but he’s definitely getting there in terms of being the best loosehead in the world. If Corbs said that, it’s a pretty good endorsement.”
England open their end-of-year international programme against a struggling South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday, with the Springboks having lost five of their last nine Tests including a record 57-15 defeat by world champions New Zealand in Durban last month.
But former London Irish prop believes South Africa, renowned for their physical approach to rugby union, will still pose formidable problems up front for an England side looking to make it 10 wins out of 10 under Australian head coach Eddie Jones.
“They will probably go with a big pack and a big back five in the way they’ve tried to do for most of the year. It will be a good side,” Hatley said. “They have been a state of flux, but when they’ve played well they have been very impressive. The Lions did well in Super Rugby. We’re expecting a good side to turn up.
“They have a very good scrum and will probably load up on that back five. There will be big bulk there so it will be a testing day from a scrum point of view.” Both England and South Africa are due to name their teams today. — AFP
England fly-half George Ford says there is no chance of him joining father Mike at French big-spenders Toulon. Mike Ford was appointed head coach of the Top 14 side in place of former Italy international Diego Dominguez in October, after initially joining Toulon as backs coach.
He moved to France after being sacked as coach of English Premiership side Bath-the club George still plays for-following a poor league season that saw the west country team finish ninth in the 12-strong table. His appointment as head coach of Toulon sparked speculation that father and son could be re-united in France.
But that would mean George having to effectively give up his international career because England do not select overseasbased players for Test duty, except in “exceptional circumstances”.
It is a policy that pre-dates Eddie Jones’s reign as England coach but one the Australian is determined to uphold.
“I don’t know what was going on there last week to be honest,” Ford, speaking at England’s training base on Tuesday, said of the speculation. “It was news to me, anyway,” added the 23-year-old ahead of England’s opening end-of-year international against South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
“Obviously my dad’s there but I want to play for England so I want to play in England,” insisted Ford, who has appeared in 26 Tests. “After it all came out I had a quick chat with Eddie and said, ‘I don’t know where all that’s come from’.”
Ford did not rule out playing overseas at a much later stage in his career, saying: “I think it would be a great life experience playing somewhere like France.
“It is a different way of playing and livingyou’d probably see the sun and the beach a lot more... I’ll see where I am in a few years’ time.” But right now Ford’s focus in on helping England make it 10 wins out of 10 under Jones when they face the Springboks-a team they have not beaten since 2006.
This weekend’s clash is set to see Ford and childhood friend Owen Farrell continue their twin playmaker partnership at fly-half and inside centre respectively.
A niggling injury that meant Farrell could not kick sidelined him for six weeks at the start of the season.
But his return saw the goal-kicker produce a man-of-the-match display as reigning English and European champions Saracens beat Toulon 33-21 on October 15.
“I wasn’t surprised by Owen’s form,” said Ford. “He would have been on top of things constantly even if he was not training to his full capacity. He is obsessed with the game.”
Farrell is one of three England players on a six-strong shortlist for World Rugby’s player of the year award, together with Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje — also two of his team-mates at London club Saracens. The winner will be announced on Sunday and Ford said: “There have been some outstanding performers in the team and those three especially. “Other players could have made it as well.” — AFP