Stuart Lancaster calls Danny Cipriani to England squad
Danny Cipriani was named in an England squad for the first time in six years Thursday as coach Stuart Lancaster decided the Sale fly-half is no longer a risk to his team’s unity.
Cipriani won all seven of his caps under Brian Ashton in 2008, having since been dropped from what would have been his debut against Scotland after being seen outside a nightclub days before a match.
His career stalled and after he left Wasps for a spell in Australia and was involved in a series of off-field incidents, including being run over by a bus. His dip in form and troublesome baggage ensured he had no chance of winning over Lancaster, who has consistently stressed the importance of behaviour since taking over from Martin Johnson following the 2011 World Cup.
Cipriani, 26, seems more settled and enjoyed an impressive season for Sale, whom he helped to a sixth-place finish in the Premiership a year after they were almost relegated.
His reward is a place in a 20-man training squad announced by Lancaster, composed of players from the six Premiership clubs no longer involved in play-off or European cup final action.
The squad will be finalised after a non-cap game against the Barbarians at Twickenham on June 1, with around 40 expected to travel to New Zealand.
“The New Zealand tour and the game against the Barbarians give us a chance to look at a wide group of players, some of whom are well known to us from the Elite Player Squad, others who we will get to work with for the first time next week,” Lancaster said.
“That is an exciting challenge for us coaches and it’s a great opportunity for those players to put a marker down for selection for the tour and the Barbarians game.”
Lancaster said Cipriani had made a fresh impression.
“I judge players on their form for their club,” he said. “Reputation and what they’ve done in the past counts for something, but not everything. Danny’s definitely improved and Sale have played well. He has controlled the games really well. I’m pleased with what he’s done and he’s in the equation.”
Cipriani faces a tough battle to force himself into contention for the three-Test tour of New Zealand, but could well feature in the Barbarians game.
“Fly-half is such a pivotal position in the team,” Lancaster said. “Players like Freddie Burns, Stephen Myler, Owen Farrell and George Ford are already up to speed with our game plan and plays. Danny would have to get up to speed with all of that and then deliver at international level in terms of execution. That’s the challenge for players coming into an international side.”
The squad includes a host of uncapped players as well as first-choice centre Billy Twelvetrees, who is fighting to overcome an ankle injury that was initially feared would rule him out of the New Zealand tour.
None of the players involved in the Premiership final on May 31 will be eligible for the first Test in Auckland on June 7. A final featuring Harlequins and Northampton would potentially deprive Lancaster of eight first-choice players, including captain Chris Robshaw and next-in-line Tom Wood.
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Published: May 15, 2014 04:00 AM