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Danny Cipriani: Will The Talented Wasps Fly-Half Ever Play For England Again?

In March 2008, a precociously gifted 20-year-old led England to victory against Ireland in the Six Nations.

At fly-half, he replaced a living legend – the man who kicked England to World Cup glory in 2003 – and when the two were on the field together, it was the young pretender that ordered the experienced hand about and shunted him to the junior role of inside centre.

It seemed then that a changing of the guard was taking place in English rugby. The best defender from fly-half the sport has seen and a bona fide kicking machine was out while a mercurial, southern hemisphere-type first five-eighth was in. However, Danny Cipriani didn’t actually kick on, whereas Jonny Wilkinson still had some of his best rugby left in him, particularly his final two years at Toulon.

So what happened?

Cipriani and Wilkinson may be antitheses in playing style and off-field reputation, but it’s too simplistic to blame Cipriani’s dalliances and misdemeanours for being frozen out from England duty.

To my mind, especially for the past two seasons, the Wasp has been desperately unlucky. Having been left out of Eddie Jones’ Elite Player Squad (EPS) yet again, has the curtain come down on Cipriani’s international career?

Cipriani was instrumental in Sale’s Premiership rise last term, showing his inventive best from the boot and from the hand. He has been similarly on-song now that he is back at Wasps. He deserves selection.

The 28-year-old’s defence has always been questioned, but he is not so much weaker in that area than George Ford, although the Bath number 10 is possibly the braver of the two. But, in any case, in the modern game coaches have fewer qualms moving weaker defenders to wide areas on opposition set-piece ball. If Cipriani were seen as a defensive weak point by England, this could have been accommodated.

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 04:  Danny Cipriani of Wasps celebrates their victory during the Aviva Premiership match between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at the Ricoh Arena on September 4, 2016 in Coventry, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

His attacking gifts would certainly be put to good use playing alongside the most expansive England backline for a generation. Behind a dominant pack, you can also see him linking effortlessly with Jonathan Joseph, putting Jack Nowell and Anthony Watson into space, as well as attacking the gain line himself.

But it is not to be. If Cipriani were ever to find an England coach to fully appreciate his talents, it would be Eddie Jones. He was too cavalier for a roundhead like Stuart Lancaster, but ought to fit the Australian’s brand of head-up rugby.

If Cipriani, given the strong form he is showing with Wasps, can’t get into an Eddie Jones England squad when Owen Farrell is a significant injury doubt, then when will he?

The answer is almost certainly: never.

Daniel Rey, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.