Talented Cipriani set for RWC axe

2015-08-26 21:04
Danny Cipriani (File)

London - Danny Cipriani had been omitted from hosts England's squad for the upcoming World Cup, the BBC and other British media organisations reported Wednesday.

The 27-year-old Sale playmaker pressed his case for inclusion in a 31-man squad that will be announced by coach Stuart Lancaster on Thursday by coming off the bench to inspire an England rally in a 25-20 defeat by France in Paris last weekend.

However, he was behind George Ford and Owen Farrell in the England fly-half pecking order, with Mike Brown and Alex Goode ahead of him in the list of possible England full-backs.

England supporters voted Cipriani - who also scored his side's first try at the Stade de France on Saturday with an inventive break - their man-of-the-match.

But for all his undoubted skill, it appears Cipriani has not done enough to convince Lancaster, who has not given him a Test start.

Before reports of his omission emerged, Cipriani thanked fans for their backing.

"Can't tell you how much the support means to me," Cipriani said on his Facebook page on Wednesday.

"We all go through our journey in life and learn lessons. I know I've made mistakes some criticised rightly or wrongly. Just a quick thanks to all the nice messages. Really appreciate it," he added.

Asked if he was in the squad, Cipriani said: "Won't find out till this evening/tomorrow morning. Just a message to say thank you for the support."

If Cipriani has indeed been left out it will mark the latest setback in an England career that has yielded just 14 appearances and four starts since he made his Test debut seven years ago.

The then 20-year-old Cipriani appeared the obvious successor to Jonny Wilkinson when, in only his third Test, he ran the show during England's 33-10 Six Nations win over Ireland at Twickenham in 2008 - a match where he kicked 18 points but impressed even more in open play.

But injuries retarded his progress, while Cipriani's frequent appearances on the front pages of national newspapers coming out of nightclubs with his then girlfriend, actress and model Kelly Brook, did not endear him to a staid England management.

Also going against Cipriani was that England have generally tended to favour the control of a 'kicking' flyhalf to supplement their traditional forward strength, rather than a more adventurous 'running' No 10.

In 2010, after a lengthy spell in the international wilderness, he joined Australia's Melbourne Rebels - a move that precluded a Test recall - before returning to England in 2013 with Premiership side Sale.

But with modern defences increasingly physical and well-organised, there are concerns about whether England will have sufficient creativity to break through against top-class opponents, especially if flyhalf/centre Henry Slade fails to make the cut as well.

Meanwhile Rugby League convert Sam Burgess appears to be involved in a one-on-one battle with Luther Burrell for the role of midfield enforcer in Lancaster's squad.

That it is still a relatively difficult task to name Lancaster's first choice XV, after nearly four years and 41 Tests in charge, has been held against the England coach.

But forwards chief Graham Rowntree insisted England were not guilty of indecision.

"We know what we're doing but there are just certain positions which are more competitive than we thought they'd be. That's great," Rowntree said.

England, who open the World Cup against Fiji at Twickenham on September 18, have been drawn in a so-called 'group of death' with Australia and Wales.

That means at least one of rugby union's major nations will fail to qualify for the quarter-finals, as only two teams from each of the four pools go through to the last eight.

Read more on:    england  |  rwc 2015  |  danny cipriani  |  rugby

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