Rugby

Cipriani set for England recall

2014-05-15 13:46
Danny Cipriani (AFP)

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.

However, Lancaster 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.

"I 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.

"I've 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."

Lancaster 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.

Owen 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 Park.

"I think it's ridiculous," Northampton and England flanker Tom Wood of the fixture clash.

"It 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:

Backs
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)

Forwards
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)

Fixtures:
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

Read more on:    england  |  danny cipriani  |  rugby
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