England may not have wanted a piece of Danny Cipriani during the months leading into the World Cup, but now the Martin Johnson regime has passed into history, Cipriani very definitely wants a piece of England. "I don't want any more ifs, buts or maybes," he said yesterday during preparations for a return to Twickenham with the Barbarians, who play Australia on Saturday. "I don't want to give people any more reasons not to pick me."
The prodigal son of the red-rose game has not played for his country for three long years – partly as a result of his own behavioural frailties and fragilities, partly as a result of Johnson's failure to manage the most gifted attacking outside-half to emerge in England since Stuart Barnes in the mid-1980s. Frustrated and depressed by the way his career was unfolding, Cipriani (right) decided on a spell of exile and moved to the Melbourne Rebels, the newly formed Australian Super 15 franchise, on a two-year contract. That contract has another southern hemisphere season to run, but Cipriani assured his audience that if England were interested in his services for the 2012 Six Nations Championship, which begins in February, he would be available. "I watched the recent World Cup as a fan, and seeing England play always makes me want to be out there playing myself," he said.
"I believe I'm in a good place to challenge for an international place now. I've played Premiership rugby and I've played in the Heineken Cup, but I think the Super 15 is probably the best competition in the world. It's the way rugby is going and it's good for me to be a part of it."
This weekend's invitational business gives the 24-year-old a priceless opportunity to learn a new trick or two from Graham Henry, whose status as one of the world's great coaches was confirmed last month when he guided the All Blacks to a first world title in almost a quarter of a century.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Cipriani said. "I know there are areas of my game that need improving and that's what I'm focusing on now. I've felt for the last 12 months that things have been passing me by on the England front and I don't want to feel that any more. I want to play at the World Cup in 2015 and I don't intend to let anything get in my way. It's about rounding my game to the degree that people feel they have to pick me."Reuse content