Rise of a Red Rose shooting star: Cipriani seizes his moment

England's brightest hope is preparing to make his first international start in the Calcutta Cup, the oldest contest of them all. Just as well, then, that he has an evident love of the limelight

Danny Cipriani has fairly flown up the pecking order and it was only a matter of time before he was named in England's starting XV. To pitch the 20-year-old into a Calcutta Cup match against Scotland at Murrayfield might appear to be one of the roundhead Brian Ashton's more cavalier selections, but if there is anything Cipriani lacks it is not confidence.

He is good and he knows it and this season he has shown it, on hostile grounds from Stradey Park in Llanelli to Thomond Park in Limerick. He was not intimidated. He looked at home. When Ashton was head of the Rugby Football Union's National Academy, he identified "Cips", as he is known to team-mates, as one of the brightest stars in the red rose galaxy.

Ashton named Danny Boy in his initial World Cup squad for the adventure in France last year, but the then teenager did not make the final 30. "Brian explained that he wanted more experienced players," he said. "I thought I could have been ready to make the step up. It was very disappointing at the time but it's how you react that's important."

Cipriani reacted very well indeed. "I learnt a lot at the England training camp with one on ones with people like Jason Robinson. When I returned to Wasps the attitude was fantastic and I just started training harder. The whole experience made me even more hungry."

Cipriani did not make it to Paris or Marseilles and instead watched the World Cup on television, usually in the company of his mother, Anne. His father, Jay, lives in Tobago. "The whole family originally came from Trinidad so I'm half West Indian, although there may be an Italian connection."

A Wasp he may be but somewhat removed from the American WASP – white Anglo-Saxon, Protestant. Thus far in his young career he has been a star of Rugby World and the News of the World. He denies that he was dating one of the Cheeky Girls – the one not dating Lembit Opik MP – but it was alleged that Cipriani was ditched when he went clubbing in London with a stunner who turned out to be a transsexual. Best to concentrate on the rugby.

"I know it's going to be a massive game against Scotland with all that history and I can't wait," Cipriani said. "I used to watch Jonny Wilkinson play and now I'm training with him. I've got to learn from these people, pick up bits from all the best players. I want to become the best in the world at what I do. There's loads to improve on."

It was not Jonny, however, who first inspired Cipriani. Instead it was the former All Black full-back Christian Cullen. "He was my idol and he got me into rugby in the first place. When I first started I used to get up early in the morning and watch the Super 12 from the southern hemisphere. Brian Ashton doesn't want players to go within themselves. I love running with the ball and I want to use my pace. I want to try and do things."

Cipriani has been working with the sprint coach Margot Wells for 18 months. "After the first week I was dying. She'd say something was good but could have been better. When I was 18 I spent six days a week with her for six weeks in pre-season training."

He is delighted to report that he can clock 2.69 seconds for 30 yards, a time faster than that recorded by a former England wing, Dan Luger. "I feel sharp," he said. "I don't want to rest on my laurels. I'll do that when I've retired."

Cipriani's breakthrough this season arrived following the departure of the Wasps No 10 Alex King to France. Both of them featured in the club's victory in the Heineken Cup final over Leicester at Twickenham last season, King at stand-off, Cipriani at full-back, and the younger man came through it pretty well.

At 19 he possessed a European Cup winner's medal and, simultaneously and uniquely, was named the Wasps academy player of the year. When King left for Clermont Auvergne, Cipriani took the No 10 jersey.

"[The 2003 England World Cup winner] Josh Lewsey has been messed about in different positions in his career and he's given me a lot of advice," Cipriani said. "I don't mind at all switching to full-back. No 15 is where I first started and I'd play in the back row if they asked me. Whatever gets me the furthest quickest."

Cipriani came on as a replacement during England's opening Six Nations match, the defeat by Wales at Twickenham, and was looking forward to receiving a pass from Wilkinson. When it came it soared over his head. Embarrassment all round. He also made an appearance as an understudy to Wilkinson in the narrow victory over Italy in Rome. No sooner had he appeared than he tried a chip ahead. It was charged down and Italy scored a famous try. Embarrassment all round.

A week later, playing in the Guinness Premiership at Bath, he was advised by Shaun Edwards (the dual coach of Wasps and Wales) that whatever he did he should not attempt a chip in midfield. Cipriani, of course, did not take Edwards' advice on board; at the Rec he chipped ahead, was half-tackled, somehow kept his balance when it appeared certain he would hit the earth, regained possession and sprinted in for a brilliant try. Anybody in the world would have been proud of it.

Afterwards Edwards acknowledged the try. "Fair play," he told the youngster. "You saw it was on and you went for it."

Cipriani was born in Roehampton, where he played for Rosslyn Park juniors. He attended the Oratory School near Reading and later the Whitgift School, Croydon. "My mum sent me to all the right schools." He excelled at squash, cricket and football and could have become a professional footballer on Reading's books.

"At 15 I stopped playing soccer and cricket and concentrated on rugby. It's what I enjoyed most. I love the camaraderie. I'm very proud to be a professional rugby player. What I really love is winning. The thing I most dislike is a bad attitude. I have been lucky. I have benefited from being with a phenomenal set of players and coaches."

On Saturday, England will field a back three – Cipriani, Paul Sackey and Lesley Vainikolo – none of whom had started a Six Nations match before this season. Explaining Iain Balshaw's demotion, Ashton said: "There were a couple of issues and Iain's accuracy in the air was one of them but England were as much to blame for Balshaw's failure to make an impact as he was himself. It has become a problem position and we're looking for somebody to claim the jersey.

"I think Danny is somebody who can play international rugby at stand-off or full-back. The question is whether he was mentally ready to start a Test and the answer is yes. He has deceptive pace, has a good kicking game and I'm confident he'll do well."

So is Cipriani, who in Edinburgh will be reunited with his headgear, what they used to call a scrum-cap. At Bath he left it at home and his mother was not happy. She insists he wears it. With Cipriani the cap appears to fit.

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice