Six Nations snub for Cipriani
England still unconvinced by 'superstar fly-half' who will be left out until summer tour at least
Sunday 03 January 2010
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.
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