Robinson shores up squad with untested Cipriani

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The Independent Online

Andy Robinson, the England coach, managed to get 60 per cent of his players on the training field at Loughborough University yesterday - an improvement of approximately 20 per cent on last week's calamitous get-together at the same venue. This did not stop Robinson springing another of his surprises on the personnel front, however. Daniel Cipriani of Wasps - an outside-half not yet considered good enough for the senior national academy, let alone the 40-man elite squad - was called up as a result of the injuries spreading through the stand-off community like a plague.

Two Newcastle No 10s, Toby Flood and the marginally more celebrated Jonny Wilkinson, are among the stricken. So, too, are Andy Goode of Leicester, Ryan Lamb of Gloucester, and Olly Barkley of Bath. Barkley's problems seem to be getting worse rather than better. Seven days previously, the word "testicle" had appeared next to his name on the casualty report by way of explaining his failure to participate. Yesterday, it was "testicles". Quite what the England medical staff will say next week does not bear thinking about.

Cipriani has yet to register a presence at Premiership level, but a number of good judges, not least the England attack coach, Brian Ashton, think the world of him. He played international rugby at Under-19 level last season and is now a member of the intermediate academy.

The likes of Wilkinson, Mathew Tait and Steve Borthwick, all heavily favoured to start against the All Blacks at Twickenham next month until they succumbed to knee injuries, did not attend yesterday's gathering. Barkley, Goode, Lamb and a number of others - Iain Balshaw, Mike Catt, Harry Ellis, Josh Lewsey, Mike Tindall and Joe Worsley included - spent the day being treated by the England medics. Their places were filled by academy types, plus the young Bath full-back Nick Abendanon.

Ironically enough, Andy Farrell of Saracens was among those on the training paddock. Having been restricted to around 90 minutes of first-team activity in 18 months because of ailments affecting his toe and his back, the former Great Britain rugby league captain now appears to be one of the few completely healthy players available to Robinson. As they say in the trade, the only sure way of staying fit is to get injured.

Seven nations, from Australia and South Africa among the big hitters to the Arabian Gulf, Kenya, the Netherlands, Russia and the United States, intend to bid for the next Rugby World Cup sevens tournament in 2009.

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