Cipriani link with Australia leaves Johnson unmoved

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The Independent Online

If Danny Cipriani is really considering upping sticks and heading for a new career in Australia, the England hierarchy are in no hurry to talk him out of it. "It's his decision, his choice," said Martin Johnson, the national manager, when pressed, very much against his will, to air his views on the subject yesterday.

Could the celebrity playmaker from Wasps maintain any sort of link with the red-rose squad from the other side of the world? "Of course not," Johnson replied. "I'm sure he understands that."

Cipriani is being linked with the new Melbourne Rebels franchise, currently being pieced together by the former Wallaby coach Rod Macqueen ahead of next season's expanded Super 15 tournament. The competition will clash directly with the 2011 Six Nations, in which Cipriani would have to play to stake a claim for a World Cup slot later in the year. Macqueen, apparently disconcerted by the growing assumption that one of England's highest-profile sportsmen is heading his way, played down the prospects of a move: "While there's no doubt we've spoken to a number of players in England, the speculation has been kicked up a lot more than it deserves to be at this stage, We're going through a sorting-out process to see where our priorities lay and it would be premature to suggest that we'll be offering Cipriani a contract."

Johnson rejected talk of a falling-out with the 22-year-old outside-half, who won the last of his seven caps 15 months ago, but those close to the player say he is thoroughly cheesed off with the English rugby scene. Pressed into service at full-back by Wasps, he will wear the No 15 shirt for the England Saxons against Italy A in Treviso tomorrow – a clear sign that he is ranked no higher than fourth in the pecking order at No 10, his natural position.