London - Danny Cipriani's six-year England exile came to an end Thursday when
he was named in a preliminary training squad ahead of next month's tour
of New Zealand.
Not since the fly-half won the last of his seven
caps in 2008 has Cipriani had any senior England involvement but his
call-up by national coach Stuart Lancaster was acknowledgement of a fine
season at Sale, where he helped the north-west side to a sixth-placed
finish in the Premiership.
However, Lancaster only named a
20-strong squad on Thursday from the six of the 12 Premiership clubs
whose season has now come to an end.
When Cipriani was first
selected for Test duty, he was seen as the 'golden boy' of English rugby
and the natural heir to Jonny Wilkinson.
But a questionable
attitude and an off-field 'celebrity' lifestyle that saw Cipriani
featuring in the front pages, as well as the back, of newspapers did not
sit well with the then England management.
said the 26-year-old had deserved his recall, telling reporters: "Danny
is back because of his form at Sale. He's played well. I take my
decisions based on what the coaches say and what I see myself.
spoke to Danny prior to the Six Nations, giving him areas to work on
which he has done. I called him on Tuesday to invite him into the squad.
coached Danny more than most because during the majority of my time as
England Saxons (reserve) coach he was on it. His club have done a
fantastic job of making him a more rounded and mature person."
is naming his squad in stages because Saracens, Northampton, Leicester
and Harlequins are all involved in this weekend's English Premiership
play-offs while next weekend sees Bath and Northampton contest the
European Challenge Cup final, with Saracens playing French holders
Toulon in the European Cup final.
In addition, Wasps have a
two-legged play-off against Paris-based Stade Francais on May 18 and 24
for the final place in next season's Rugby Champions Cup, the successor
tournament to the European Cup.
And that means Cipriani could yet
miss out on a three-Test series with the world champion All Blacks,
matches Lancaster has put a high premium on ahead of next year's World
Cup in England, when Lancaster names his final squad for the tour, and
the June 1 non-cap warm-up match against the Barbarians, on May 26.
Farrell (Saracens) and George Ford (Bath), who ended the Six Nations as
England's first-choice and back-up fly-halves respectively, are both
set to be included, while Northampton's Stephen Myler will also be
pushing for a tour place.
A further complication for Lancaster is
that the first Test against New Zealand take place on Jun 7, a week
after the Premiership final.
As a result, England could be without
up to eight first-choice players who, if they feature in the final,
will have insufficient time to recover for the Test at Auckland's Eden
"I think it's ridiculous," Northampton and England flanker Tom Wood of the fixture clash.
splits your loyalties and it is a question you should never have to ask
yourself...You should be doing the best you can for your club and
playing yourself into contention for your country. The two should never
be in conflict."
England training squad:
Danny Cipriani (Sale), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester), Marland Yarde (London Irish), Jonny May (Gloucester), Freddie Burns (Gloucester), Sam Hill (Exeter), Chris Pennell (Worcester), Dan Robson (Gloucester), Charlie Sharples (Gloucester), Henry Slade (Exeter), Henry Trinder (Gloucester)
Matt Kvesic (Gloucester), Ben Morgan (Gloucester), Tom Johnson (Exeter), Kieran Brookes (Newcastle), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), Dave Ewers (Exeter), Michael Paterson(Sale), Tommy Taylor (Sale), Henry Thomas (Sale)
June 1: England XV v Barbarians, Twickenham
June 7: First Test v New Zealand, Eden Park, Auckland
June 14: Second Test v New Zealand, Dunedin
June 17: England XV v Crusaders, Christchurch
June 21: Third Test v New Zealand, Hamilton