Alex Corbisiero is a great signing for Northampton Saints if he can overcome injury

Can Alex Corbisiero overcome his injury woes which have hampered the prop over the past couple of seasons

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Alex Corbisiero's decision to sign for Northampton Saints is a major boost for the Franklin Garden's outfit - if the England international can stay fit.

The 24-year-old will leave his current club London Irish at the end of the season to join the Saints, ending an eight-year spell at the Madejski Stadium.

Corbisiero has penned a three-and-a-half year deal, and for Northampton they have landed arguably the best loose head prop in the country - or even Europe.

Some will argue Toulon and Wales star Gethin Jenkins deserves that accolade - but there's no denying Corbisiero's quality.

While on paper, it's a move which makes sense for both parties. The big question will be can Corbisiero stay fit. He's been featured in "one-and-a-half games" for London Irish this season.

The New York City-born prop suffers from a degenerative knee condition, with the latest setback coming in London Irish's win against Gloucester on 5 January 2013.

The current problem with his knee threatens to derail his bid to take part in England's attempt to win the Six Nations championship, which starts in February.

"It is a tough time for him, and it is a difficult one to balance," said London Irish coach Brian Smith after the win against Gloucester.

"His knee is a mess. He has played one-and-a-half games for us this season, and it is very disappointing.

"I couldn't tell you if he is going to play next week or not. He has got degenerative knee issues." The outlook is not optimistic from the player's coach. Looking at other sportsmen who have suffered with similar issues, Ledley King forged a good career at Tottenham, carefully managing his knees while Republic of Ireland legend Paul McGrath was a similar case.

But former Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves was not so lucky, with his career on the brink of a premature end after a four-year battle with knee injuries, now aged 31.

It will take careful management from Corbisiero and of course the Saints, who must believe that the loose head prop can overcome his knee issues because they've not hesitated to call off deals in the past.

Many will remember how the Saints terminated a deal to sign for former Wallabies wing Cameron Shepherd, acting on the recommendation of the club's medical team. It was the same case with Joe van Niekerk in 2008, with Saints terminating his contract before arrival over concerns about a niggling injury. The club's medical team must believe Corbisiero's problem can be overcome.

Looking at to how this effects the Saints starting XV, while Corbisiero's signing is exciting it will be interesting to see how their front row develops. After all, out of their first-choice front row, only Dylan Hartley will remain next season.

Brian Mujati is swapping the Aviva Premiership for France, joining Racing Metro, while Soane Tonga'uiha is also heading to the same club. Corbisiero obviously helps fill that void - if he stays fit - but Jim Mallinder will need to add one or two new signings in his front row.

Overall, it's a good deal for both parties. Corbisiero gets the chance to be part of an exciting revival at Franklin's Gardens, while the Saints get a top loose head.

After so little game time over the past 12 months, he still produced a world-class performance to help England to a famous victory over New Zealand at Twickenham at the end of 2012.

In the end, his quality is unquestioned but ultimately the 24-year-old's battle against his knee injury could end up defining his Saints spell.

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