Cipriani to discover red rose fate

Fly-half learns today if he is part of Martin Johnson's 32-man elite England squad
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The Independent Online

Danny Cipriani was snapped by the paparazzi last week dropping into an estate agency in Wimbledon in the company of his celebrity other half. It remains to be seen whether the Wasps fly-half will be moving in to a new home with the actress and model Kelly Brook. The big question today is whether the erstwhile boy wonder will be asked to pack his bags and vacate the England Elite Player Squad.

The answer will come at noon when Martin Johnson announces the 32 players who will comprise his senior elite squad for the 2009-10 season, and the 32 who will make up the second-string England Saxons squad. It will be an intriguing call on the part of England's team manager, 12 months into his role of cultivating the red rose bunch for the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Johnson started his reign by pinning his faith on Cipriani in the No 10 shirt for the first three of England's home Tests last autumn but then, after dropping him to bench duty for the visit of the All Blacks, left him out in the cold for the entirety of the Six Nations' Championship, alternating outside-half duties between Andy Goode and Toby Flood. If Cipriani was feeling the chill at that omission – a year on from his sparkling showing on his first start for his country, against Ireland at Twickenham – what followed amounted to deep-freeze treatment.

With Flood and Jonny Wilkinson both on the injured list, Johnson picked Goode and Sam Vesty as his fly-halves for the end-of-season matches against the Barbarians and Argentina. Cipriani was sent to Colorado with the Saxons for the Churchill Cup and ended up on the bench for the final against Ireland A, having lost his place to Northampton's Steve Myler. Exactly where that leaves the 21-year-old Wasp in the grand scheme of things should become a little clearer today.

Cipriani was not in the Elite Player Squad named by Johnson a year ago but that was because he was injured and not expected back until January. He was subsequently chosen as a replacement for the injured Wilkinson, who – like the rest of the England players who have opted to ply their trade with French clubs next season (James Haskell, Riki Flutey, Tom Palmer and Jamie Noon among them) – will have to fight for selection from outside the EPS system, which is designed to agree terms of release, compensation, and medical protocols between English clubs and the Rugby Football Union for English-based players. The RFU have requested all France-bound players to negotiate similar terms with their clubs if they are to follow Goode and hooker Steve Thompson, who both played for England last season while with Brive and outside the Elite Player Squad.

Six for No 10 England's fly-half options

Toby Flood

England's first-choice fly-half in the Six Nations but sidelined through injury until November.



Danny Cipriani

Dropped dramatically down the pecking order last season but still seen as the long-term heir to Wilkinson.



Shane Geraghty

The bright new thing when he came on to inspire England against France in the 2007 Six Nations.

Sam Vesty

Like Flood and Geraghty, a fly-half-cum-centre. Made his debut off the bench against Argentina last month.



Jonny Wilkinson

Now fit again for Toulon after a year out due to a dislocated knee but French-based players will not be named in squad tomorrow.



Andy Goode

Form with Brive last season earned the 29-year-old an England recall.

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