Cipriani dropped by England

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The Independent Online

England have dramatically dropped Danny Cipriani for their RBS Six Nations Championship clash against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The 20-year-old Wasps star will not even travel to Edinburgh with the England squad later today.

He has been axed for what the Rugby Football Union have termed "inappropriate behaviour" last night.

Cipriani is believed to have paid a hefty price for being pictured in a newspaper leaving a London nightclub after midnight.

He has been replaced in the team by Gloucester's Iain Balshaw, with Sale Sharks fly-half Charlie Hodgson joining the replacements.

Balshaw had originally made way for Cipriani - English rugby's hottest property since Jonny Wilkinson - to make a first England start this weekend at full-back.

Cipriani's Test career has suffered a major setback before it has barely started.

England head coach Brian Ashton said: "I've taken the decision regarding Danny and the matter is now closed.

"I will keep an open mind on selecting him for future games."

The RFU added that no further disciplinary action would be taken against Cipriani, but he has been "warned and advised" about his future conduct.

Ashton's tough line suggests Cipriani is unlikely to be involved against England's final Six Nations opponents Ireland next week.

The World Cup finalists then head off on a two-Test tour of New Zealand in June, but Cipriani has clearly done his international ambitions grievous harm.

He is the most exciting young player in English rugby.

Despite his tender years, he has already helped Wasps win a Heineken Cup final, and is seen as the fly-half heir apparent to Wilkinson.

He collected his England debut as a substitute against Wales last month, and then made another appearance off the bench during a 23-19 victory over Italy in Rome, when his charged-down kick led to an Azzurri try.

Big things were expected from him at Murrayfield, where England need to win to keep their Six Nations title hopes alive.

But Ashton is clearly in no mood to accept excuses for Cipriani's behaviour.

Whether the head coach has over-reacted or not, only time will tell, yet a controversy of this type is the last thing England need.

They have regrouped impressively since suffering a first Twickenham defeat for 20 years against Wales last month, beating Italy and then recording their biggest victory over France in Paris since 1992.

It is not known at this stage whether Cipriani will turn out for his club Wasps in the Guinness Premiership this weekend, but that has to be unlikely.

Whatever happens though, he faces a long road back rebuilding Ashton's trust.