So Danny Cipriani's first serious injury – a fracture dislocation of the right ankle that sporting medics will in future refer to as "the Cipwreck" – is every bit as gruesome as initially feared. It was entirely obvious from the moment he cracked and crumbled under the force of a double tackle during the Premiership semi-final between Wasps and Bath on Sunday that he would miss England's forthcoming tour of New Zealand. Sadly, he will miss the autumn international series too. Wasps do not expect him to regain full fitness for at least six months, which effectively draws a line under the brilliant young outside-half's 2008.
The good news is that Cipriani is not yet 21, and therefore has oodles of time to get himself right. As the Wasps medical and conditioning team is as good as any in the English game, including England's, the advice he receives will be both reliable and sympathetic. The bad news is that a left-footed marksman necessarily depends on his weight-bearing right foot for balance and stability. If Cipriani had to crock himself, he would not have chosen to do it quite this way.
"He'll be a stronger player for this experience," said Lawrence Dallaglio, his club captain, yesterday. Given his own injury record, Dallaglio should know: after all, it was a fracture dislocation of the ankle that ended his interest in the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2005. But the former England No 8 might also have added that, as a result of the persistent knee trouble for which he was invalided out of the previous Lions tour of Australia in 2001, he was forced into a radical reappraisal of his approach to rugby. Dallaglio's style in the second half of his career has been very different to the one with which he made his reputation in the first half. Cipriani may also have to recalibrate his game.
The youngster underwent surgery at the Lister Hospital in London on Sunday night and was still under treatment there yesterday. Prav Mathema, the head physiotherapist at Wasps, praised the hospital, along with his own medical team and the travelling medics from Bath who went to Cipriani's aid as he lay writhing on the pitch at Adams Park, along with the paramedics who cared for the player as he was driven from the stadium.
Martin Johnson, the new England manager, spent yesterday picking over the candidates to fill the gap in the party for New Zealand, where two Tests will be played next month, and is expected to make an announcement today. There is no pressing reason to replace like with like – Charlie Hodgson, an experienced top-level No 10, is already on the tour roster, while two players picked at inside centre, Olly Barkley and Toby Flood, know what it is to perform the pivot role against serious international opposition.
Should Johnson opt for another outside-half following his consultations with Rob Andrew, the director of elite rugby who will manage England in All Black territory as a result of his colleague's absence on paternity business, Ryan Lamb of Gloucester is the prime contender. However, Lamb made expensive errors in his club's Premiership semi-final defeat by Leicester at the weekend, and there are those who believe he would benefit from some Churchill Cup rugby with the second-string Saxons side rather than flying to New Zealand as the fourth 10 out of four.
Interestingly, Lamb was not included in the mix of elite and Saxons players Johnson will bring together for the end-of-season match with the Barbarians at Twickenham in 12 days' time. Hodgson is the one specialist outside-half in the 27-man squad, with Flood able to provide back-up from his place among the centres. All three scrum-halves from the New Zealand-bound party – the incumbent Richard Wigglesworth, the versatile Peter Richards and the uncapped Danny Care – are involved, as are the two new hookers, Dylan Hartley of Northampton and David Paice of London Irish.
Alex Brown, the Gloucester lock, would have been named among the 27 for the Baa-Baas, but he has a neck injury and has been replaced by Stuart Hooper, who has ended his association with relegated Leeds to take up an opportunity at Bath. None of Hooper's new clubmates were considered for the first outing under Johnson – the West Countrymen have enough on their plate with this weekend's European Challenge Cup final against Worcester – while Wasps and Leicester personnel were equally unselectable as a result of their involvement in the Premiership final on 31 May.
Eddie Jones, the Australian who coached the Wallabies to the World Cup final in 2003 and made major technical and tactical contributions to South Africa's successful challenge for the Webb Ellis Trophy in France last year, has reshaped the Saracens back-room team ahead of the new domestic season in September. Two of those who played a significant part on the field in recent months, the prop Cobus Visagie and the back-row forward Paul Gustard, have been drafted in, the former as a player-coach and the latter as skills specialist.
Alex Sanderson will take over as forwards coach from Adrian Kennedy, who is moving to New Zealand for a spell with the Taranaki provincial side, while a rather more celebrated former England back-rower, Richard Hill, may also sign up. Jones is tempting the great blind-side flanker with a player development role.
England squad v Barbarians
Preliminary England squad to play the Barbarians at Twickenham in the Gartmore Challenge on Sunday 1 June, kick-off 3pm:
Forwards: A Clarke (Bristol), N Easter (Harlequins), T Guest (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), J Hobson (Bristol), S Hooper (Leeds Carnegie), C Jones (Sale Sharks), N Kennedy (London Irish), N Lloyd (Saracens), L Narraway (Gloucester), D Paice (London Irish), C Robshaw (Harlequins), W Skinner (Harlequins), D Wilson (Newcastle Falcons).
Backs: A Allen (Gloucester), M Brown (Harlequins), D Care (Harlequins), T Flood (Newcastle Falcons), C Hodgson (Sale Sharks), U Monye (Harlequins), J Noon (Newcastle Falcons), T Ojo (London Irish), P Richards (London Irish), D Strettle (Harlequins), M Tait (Newcastle Falcons), M Tindall (Gloucester),
R Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks).Reuse content