Danny Cipriani still harbours hopes of being part of England's summer tour to Australia despite his impending move Down Under to play for the Melbourne Rebels.
Cipriani made the controversial decision to switch to the Super 15 after being consistently ignored by Martin Johnson, but has recently had positive discussions with Brian Smith, England's backs coach, raising the prospect of a return to national colours.
Cipriani stressed yesterday that despite his forthcoming two-year sojourn in Melbourne pulling on the red-rose shirt remains his ultimate ambition and that a good end to the season for Wasps will be enough to earn selection for the two-Test tour in June. The Super 15 season does not begin until February and runs parallel with the Six Nations.
"I am hoping that if I play well enough I will go on the England tour. That would be my first port of call, rather than playing for the Barbarians," said Cipriani, who has been named (no doubt to Johnson's chagrin) in the Barbarians squad to play against England at Twickenham at the end of next month.
"To know Brian Smith is still looking at my games is to know I am still in their thoughts, which is great. I feel a lot more confident in what I am doing now and that is important because when you are confident you can make the split decision, that instinct decision straight away rather than hesitating slightly. When I look at my old games that is what I was doing."
Wasps face Cardiff in the Amlin Cup semi-final on Saturday and it provides the ideal big stage for Cipriani to further his gradual return to form since he recovered from a broken leg. Connacht or Toulon (and, intriguingly, Jonny Wilkinson) await in the final.
His deal with Melbourne makes it highly unlikely that he will play any part in next year's World Cup, which takes place in New Zealand in September – indeed yesterday he floated the possibility of returning to England to play club rugby next winter.
"Between my first and second years there could be a possibility of coming back to play in England," said Cipriani. "Wasps would be the first club I talk to whatever decision I make and will be the first club I think of. I won't do it this year. I have got a big period to condition myself which hopefully will put me in good shape for six to eight years. It will be difficult to leave Wasps. I have been here for seven years and thoroughly enjoyed it. I will miss that camaraderie."
But for all that, he maintains that the move to Melbourne is the right one and will benefit his long-term ambitions even though it rules him out of the next Six Nations and so probably the World Cup, too.
"Playing for England is what drives me and it has been difficult because I have not been doing that," said the 22-year-old. "I need to find ways to solve the puzzle. For me, it is going out there to learn from Rod Macqueen. He is a coach in Clive Woodward's calibre. I can understand that [perception] but I believe the best way to solve the puzzle is to go to the Melbourne Rebels.
"It will be out of my comfort zone. I will be with players like Stirling Mortlock who is someone I can learn from. I am going out there to improve myself as a player and get to the level I want to get to. It is a chance for me to hone my skills and hopefully I will come back more of a rounded player and still have 10 years of rugby ahead of me.
"I didn't believe I would learn as much by going to France. In two years' time I will be coming back as a 24-year-old, still a young player with a lot of good years left in me.
"The move is all about the bigger picture and being able at 40 years old to look back and say that I played in Australia and put myself back in a good position with England. Playing for England is the greatest feeling."Reuse content