Cipriani to face nemesis Johnson with Barbarians

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The Independent Online

If you can't join them, you might as well try to beat them. Having tired of waiting for another chance to pull on the No 10 jersey for the first-choice England team, Danny Cipriani has accepted an invitation to play for the Barbarians in their two end-of season matches against international opposition – the first of which just happens to be England at Twickenham on Sunday 30 May.

What an interesting little affair that would be: the fly-half who has seemingly burned his England bridges for the 2011 World Cup by agreeing to join the Melbourne Rebels next season versus the national side managed by Martin Johnson, the man who has deemed Cipriani surplus to anything but second-team requirements since the autumn of 2008. And at Red Rose HQ, too. Should it come to pass, that is.

If Wasps make the Guinness Premiership final, to be held on Saturday 29 May, there would be little chance of Cipriani being asked to put in a weekend double shift at Twickenham. Still, with the Londoners lying fifth in the table, a Cipriani v Johnno and Jonny Wilkinson encounter is a distinct possibility as things stand. The Barbarians also play Ireland at Thomond Park in Limerick on 4 June.

On the subject of outside-halves, Shane Geraghty will be confronted with another rival for the Northampton No 10 shirt from the start of next season. Having lost out to Stephen Myler for the starting role at fly-half in the Saints' Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat against Munster at Thomond Park last Saturday, Geraghty now faces competition from Joe Ford.

The 19-year-old son of England defence coach Mike Ford, one of the stars of Leeds' fight against relegation in recent months, was confirmed as a Saints signing yesterday. "This season Joe has been one of the stand-out young players in the Guinness Premiership," Jim Mallinder, Northampton's director of rugby, said. "Joe will be joining Stephen Myler and Shane Geraghty in competing for a first-team shirt next season. Having three players of this quality will only be good for the club."

Having the clout of major new investment would surely be good news for Bath and a public announcement to that effect is expected to be made by the club today – after the players have been informed at a morning meeting. It is understood that a multimillionaire businessman from the south-west, now based in France, is behind a substantial financial injection that could impact on proposals for a new ground.

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