England prop forward Alex Corbisiero is positive about London Irish’s chances this year and thinks that the Exiles have a big year ahead of them.

The 23-year-old, who started his career at Cobham,  will be a key man for Irish, who will be looking to improve on last year’s showing, where they finished in seventh place. 

Corbisiero said Irish have had a slightly different pre-season this year.

He said: “We’ve focused a lot more on the rugby. We have kept the conditioning strength high, but the rugby and the skills are the main part, making sure everyone is used to playing together so we can play the game plan that we want to play.”

On new coach Brian Smith, the former American Community School student said: “Brian’s come in and we’ve had some great signings and everything is looking really positive. 

“I think he has been good getting everyone clued up, it’s a newer team and a lot of the guys need to gel. Watching the boys train, everyone is looking really sharp.”

US-born Corbisiero had a breakthrough season in 2011-12, amassing 10 international caps.

He is now an England regular in the new-look side and travelled with the national squad to the Rugby World Cup in 2011 as well as going on the tour to South Africa this summer. 

Unfortunately, the young England man, who had spells with KCS Old Boys and London Welsh as a child, will not be available until October, having had surgery seven weeks ago on his right knee. 

All things going well he will be in contention for the tough autumn internationals against Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Corbisiero said: “The way we’ve got to approach it is, the first game is Fiji, we will hopefully win that game, and from then Australia, and progress through it.

“Our target at the start is going to be four from four and I think we have a realistic chance of doing it if we get things right on the day.”

Corbisiero, an avid fan of mixed martial arts, has been busy getting in shape for his comeback, and has been training with UFC’s John Hathaway ahead of his return to action.