Alex Corbisiero has not pulled on an England rugby jersey since December 2012, giving his rivals in the loose plenty of time to stake their claim.
However, their time is running out as the 25-year-old former Hall School Wimbledon pupil made his long-awaited comeback from a knee injury as a replacement in Northampton Saints’s 74-13 demolition of London Wasps on Saturday.
It remains to be seen whether Saints coach Jim Mallinder has Corbisiero pencilled in for the Aviva Premiership semi-final clash with Leicester Tigers tomorrow [Friday], but his recovery has come too late for England’s tour to New Zealand next month.
However, one man who cannot wait for Corbisiero’s return to the international scene is Saracens prop Mako Vunipola.
The Sarries wrecking ball insists Corbisiero would only strengthen what is already ferocious competition that includes Harlequins Joe Marler.
Vunipola said: “Alex has been really unlucky with injuries, getting knocked down every time he has come back.
“We have got a lot of good looseheads at the moment and I think that is only good for the team because that extra depth give us more options.
“You want to play for England, but we also want to give each other competition and raise each other’s game.”
He added: “That’s the way rugby is nowadays.
“It’s no different to me or Joe, and one injury can put you back in the pecking order.
“For me it is all about working hard and playing every game as though it’s my last one.”
Should Saracens overcome Marler and Harlequins on Saturday in the second semi-final, Vunipola could face Corbisiero and fellow Saints Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood at Twickenham in the final before they join forces in New Zealand.
Mako Vunipola was speaking at the launch of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Policy. Sign up for exclusive access to interviews and competitions at premiershiprugby.com/avivarugby policy