Cipriani throws weight behind Ashton

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On a day of yet more speculation about a possible England managerial role for the former captain Martin Johnson and the future of the beleaguered Brian Ashton, the man of the moment, Danny Cipriani, came out in full support of his head coach.

"If you look at the results Brian Ashton has had I think he has done phenomenally," said the Wasps fly-half, who scored 18 points and was the star of the show in England's 33-10 victory over Ireland at Twickenham last weekend.

It was a ringing endorsement for Cipriani to make, considering that only a week before the Ireland game he had been dropped by Ashton after being photographed emerging from a London nightclub in the early hours, two days before the Calcutta Cup match against Scotland in Edinburgh. Cipriani had been selected to make his first Test start, at full-back, in that match.

"Brian got England to the Rugby World Cup final last October," said Cipriani, "then to second place in the Six Nations Championship." He said there had been some poor performances in the Championship but added: "You can't just pin the blame for that on the coaches. I think the players have to take responsibility. As you saw on Saturday, everything went smoothly because the coaching team put their markers up and we all backed it 100 per cent."

Cipriani, 20, who arrived late after a delayed photocall, was speaking at the launch of Rugby Expo, the business-to-business union and league convention which aims to support the financial development of the two codes. He said: "A lot of the players have said continuity would be a good thing, and working with the same set of coaches is a massive positive.

"I'd like to have Brian Ashton around. I've known him for so long. I like working with him, I have done so since I was 15.

"I met Martin Johnson once, very briefly. Everyone talks about him as being a great leader and if it is his choice to take up a management role then England could possibly benefit from it. But if you look at what Brian Ashton has done, with his assistant coaches, Mike Ford and John Wells, I think they have been very positive for England."

Cipriani has finished basking in the glory provided by his part in the convincing victory over Ireland. "The last 48 hours have been pretty busy," he said. "It's been exciting, but like anything good or bad I've got to move on."

His next move is to Cardiff on Saturday, where he and Wasps meet Leicester in the EDF Energy Cup semi-finals. He also has an eye on a place on England's tour to New Zealand this summer.

"Obviously I will be looking forward to hopefully making the squad and going on the summer tour," he said. "It would be amazing to come up against Dan Carter, but I have to play well for Wasps first and get selected. There's things I have to build on to back up last Saturday's performance. I need to improve every area of my game."

Rugby Expo will be held in London on 17 and 18 November and promises wide-ranging business opportunities for those in the game. "I'd like to promote rugby in any way I can," Cipriani said. "I am truly passionate about things like Rugby Expo and the charity Touraid.

"I've spoken to Touraid about getting children over from Trinidad and Tobago, which is where I am originally from, and getting them playing rugby."

The Rugby Football Union is to lose its highly-rated National Academy director, Conor O'Shea. The former Ireland full-back will become national director of the English Institute of Sport later this year.

Williams wins player poll

The Wales wing Shane Williams has been named player of the tournament for the RBS Six Nations Championship. Williams, who scored six tries, equalling the Six Nations record, took 55 per cent of a vote conducted on the tournament's website. Italy's captain, the No 8 Sergio Parisse, was second with 14 per cent. Wales captain and No 8, Ryan Jones, was third.