Rugby World Cup 2019: England send message to Danny Cipriani as Japan dream continues to fade

Cipriani could find himself recalled for the opening warm-up match against Wales, but even a spectacular performance at Twickenham is unlikely to force his way into the England squad unless injury strikes his rivals

Jack de Menezes
Wednesday 31 July 2019 12:42
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Marler comes out of retirement to be named in England's World Cup training squad

England’s message to Danny Cipriani seems to be growing clearer by the day: if we need you, we’ll call.

The Gloucester fly-half, voted this year’s Players’ Player and Premiership Player of the Year, looks all but out of the running for England’s Rugby World Cup squad, having missed out on the 12-day ‘heat camp’ in Treviso that ends tomorrow.

And though Cipriani could feasibly find himself recalled to Eddie Jones’ training squad for next week’s opening warm-up match against Wales, the feeling from the camp in Italy is that the only way that will happen is if injury or otherwise befalls Owen Farrell or George Ford.

Cipriani and prop Ben Moon were surprise omissions from the two previous camps in the party that travelled to Treviso, although the former’s second week was spent completely “specialised strength and conditioning work” away from the rest of the team, and the likelihood of Cipriani getting back into the fold for the visit of Wales to Twickenham on 11 August - let alone making the plane to Japan - is drifting off into the distance.

Of course, England assistant coach John Mitchell would not confirm that, but with Jones due to name his 31-man squad the day after that Wales clash and Farrell and Ford firmly ahead of him with Henry Slade an option at fly-half, the message to Cipriani is clear.

“He has been in for two weeks,” Mitchell said. “Him and Moony are both very good players. We have got excellent players inside and excellent players outside. There have been players inside this group at the moment who have been out as well. Everyone has to be ready and Moony and Danny are no different.

“Eddie will make a decision on the squad when we get back to England. Nothing changes there.

“It’s not for me to talk about selection - that’s Eddie’s call but we’re going to need everyone. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re in now or you’re out preparing - the thing is that you need to be ready. Danny is no different. Nor is Moony.”

If Jones has made up his mind on Cipriani, it is only one of many decisions he has left to make. The news that Brad Shields will miss most, if not all, of England’s four warm-up matches with the foot ligament injury he suffered in Treviso could open the door for uncapped Harlequins forward Alex Dombrandt to stake his claim to a place in the 31-man squad.

But on top of Shields’ injury - which will take four-to-six weeks to heal - Jones is also sweating on Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell. The pair are hoping to return to action at some stage in the next month, but any longer and their place in Japan could be in jeopardy. With question marks lingering over their heads, and George Kruis only just returning to action this week following ankle surgery, there are still conundrums to be solved as to whether England can afford to go into a two-month campaign with so many injury concerns.

Danny Cipriani's Rugby World Cup dream continues to fade

“Eddie will address that at the time,” added Mitchell. “Already, if you look at our situation here we have really good players in and we have some really good players out.

“If you look at the history of recent World Cups some positions have gone four or five deep on some occasions. Everyone just has to be ready regardless of what position they are in. While the deadline is important from a logistical point of view and I guess from a commercial point of view, ultimately everyone has to be ready because it is a long way between then and finishing the World Cup.”

Initially, Jones had hinted that those fringe players such as Cipriani would have one match to impress given the single day between the opening warm-up match and final squad announcement. But Mitchell stressed that isn’t the case, given that players will not be judged on a single-match performance as is probably right when heading into a seven-match World Cup campaign - should England make the final weekend.

Mako Vunipola remains in individual training as he recovers from hamstring surgery

But for the likes of regular Anthony Watson, veteran Mike Brown and the uncapped Ruaridh McConnochie, who appear to be battling for the final spot among the back three, it means a spectacular outing against Warren Gatland’s side may not be enough to force their way to Japan.

“One game doesn’t determine selection,” said the defence coach. “We have seen enough of these people over a long period of time. One game is not going to determine their Rugby World Cup future.

“It is part of the plan and there will definitely be a strategy around that particular match. It just happens to be near a milestone where there will be a naming. Ultimately it’s just one match of four that are all geared towards our key focus of preparing for Tonga, USA, Argentina and France.”

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