Six Nations snub for Cipriani

England still unconvinced by 'superstar fly-half' who will be left out until summer tour at least
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The Independent Online

Danny Cipriani's hopes of an England recall will be dashed when the squad for the Six Nations Championship is named on 13 January. The 22-year-old has not convinced manager Martin Johnson that he is a viable alternative at fly-half to Jonny Wilkinson or the fit-again Toby Flood.

Cipriani has only recently returned from two months off with a fractured fibula but two other backs – Delon Armitage of London Irish and Brive's Riki Flutey – are set to start against Wales at Twickenham on 6 February despite similar lay-offs. The good news for Cipriani, who said last week it would be "amazing if England come calling", is that England and his club Wasps have given him a disciplinary clean slate after a much-publicised falling-out with the national management.

The public and media appetite for a superstar fly-half to succeed Wilkinson has focused attention on Cipriani (and latterly his actress girlfriend Kelly Brook) since he first appeared in the England senior squad aged 19 in the run-up to the 2007 World Cup. He won caps against Wales, Italy and Ireland in the following year's Six Nations, ousting Wilkinson as the starting No 10 in a rapturously received win over the Irish.

When Wilkinson was injured for the 2008 autumn Tests, the new England manager Johnson plumped for Cipriani, who had just returned from a badly broken ankle. But unconvincing performances in a struggling team saw Cipriani dropped before the end of the series and he has not played for England since.

Poor behaviour on a training trip to Portugal a year ago counted against him, and Cipriani finished last season with the Saxons at the Churchill Cup. Barring injuries during the Six Nations, his next chance of a Test would be on tour in Australia in June – which is 15 months away from the 2011 World Cup.

Flutey's fitness will be high on the agenda at the England coaches' final selection meeting next Thursday, with the fly-half spots in a 32-man squad earmarked for Wilkinson, Flood and Shane Geraghty. Inside centre Flutey is due to begin his comeback from a shoulder injury on the bench for Brive at home to Perpignan today.