Vesty earns place ahead of Cipriani

Leicester fly-half's form wins over Johnson as Wasps' No 10 is sent to Saxons
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The Independent Online

Danny Cipriani, it appears, still needs more testing – of his character, not his playing ability – and to that end he has been left out of England's senior squad for this summer's game against the Barbarians and the two-Test series against Argentina.

This is despite the fact that the Wasps fly-half, who did not feature in England's Six Nations campaign this season, was considered good enough to have been put on standby for the forthcoming British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

So even though Toby Flood and Toulon-bound Jonny Wilkinson are injured, England team manager Martin Johnson has only picked Cipriani for the second-string England Saxons squad who contest the Churchill Cup in North America this summer, preferring Sam Vesty for the senior squad.

Vesty has impressed while helping steer Leicester, Johnson's old club, to the brink of a Premiership and Heineken Cup double.

Johnson said: "The reason Danny Cipriani is not in the squad is more that Sam Vesty and Andy Goode have been playing very well. It is a pretty competitive position. We felt that Sam played very well in helping Leicester win the Premiership title and that he deserved a chance in the senior team."

But after a great debut against Ireland – and then having battled back from a horrific ankle injury – there have been doubts about Cipriani's attitude, with rumours, all denied, of rifts with members of the England coaching staff, and suggestions that he is not popular within the red-rose squad.

Johnson said: "You talk to players all the time about where they are and what they do. I have had very frank conversations with Danny, he is 21 years old, and as with all these players, there is still room for him to develop. We see him as having a bright future in the game, but right now others are ahead of him.

"Danny has come back from a very serious injury, and come back very, very early. He's still got metalwork in his ankle. He has made the decision not to have that removed until early July. He wanted to tour. That is his decision. And we welcome it. But what you have to deal with in rugby is taking the knock-backs. It has been a tough year for Danny, he has had any number of highs and lows and he is still only 21. His club had a difficult season, he is coming back off that injury. He has been picked for England, then left out. How you deal with that is part of being a player."

As for Vesty, he is still in something of a daze over his selection. "I didn't expect it," he said yesterday. "I have spent all my career just trying to nail a first team place at Leicester. When I got the call from Martin Johnson I was chuffed to bits." Earlier this season Vesty was not even in the Tigers first XV and was even contemplating leaving his home-town club.

But while Goode and Vesty have been given the nod, they cannot relax, because the uncapped Tom May, who has been selected as a centre along with Jordan Turner-Hall, has been playing well at fly-half for Newcastle. Northampton's Ben Foden is also in the squad as a full-back, although Johnson acknowledged: "He has the potential to come on as a scrum-half."

Johnson did admit that he expects to trim the 34-man squad before they fly to South America. "I don't expect to take the full squad over to Argentina. There's guys who've got injury issues, so we have left our options open."

England squad: To face Argentina

Forwards Steffon Armitage (London Irish), Steve Borthwick (Saracens, capt), George Chuter (Leicester), Jordan Crane, Tom Croft, Louis Deacon (all Leicester), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), James Haskell (Wasps), Ben Kay (Leicester), Nick Kennedy (London Irish), Lewis Moody (Leicester), Tim Payne (Wasps), Tom Rees (Wasps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Steve Thompson (Brive), Julian White (Leicester), David Wilson (Newcastle), Nick Wood (Gloucester).

Backs Delon Armitage (London Irish), Danny Care (Harlequins), Mark Cueto (Sale), Ben Foden (Northampton), Andy Goode (Brive), Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins), Dan Hipkiss (Leicester), Paul Hodgson (London Irish), Tom May (Newcastle), Olly Morgan (Gloucester), Jamie Noon (Newcastle), David Strettle (Harlequins), Mathew Tait (Sale), Sam Vesty (Leicester), Richard Wigglesworth (Sale).

Fixtures England v Argentina 6 June; Argentina v England 13 June.

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