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Thursday May 15, 2014 MYT 10:12:18 PM
Thursday May 15, 2014 MYT 10:13:19 PM
by mitch phillips
LONDON (Reuters) - Danny Cipriani was named in an England squad for the first time in six years on Thursday as coach Stuart Lancaster has decided the mercurial Sale flyhalf is no longer a risk to his team's esprit de corps.
Cipriani won all seven of his caps under Brian Ashton in 2008 - having been dropped from what would have been his debut against Scotland after being seen outside a nightclub days before a match.
His career then stalled and after he left Wasps for an ill-starred spell in Australia he has been involved in a series of off-field incidents - including being run over by a bus.
His dip in form allied to the troublesome baggage ensured he had no chance of winning over Lancaster, who has consistently stressed the importance on role-model behaviour since taking over from Martin Johnson following the 2011 World Cup.
However, now 26, Cipriani seems more settled and enjoyed an impressive season for Sale, who he helped to a sixth-place finish in the Premiership a year after they were almost relegated.
His reward is a place in a 20-man training squad announced by Lancaster on Thursday made up of players from the six Premiership clubs no longer involved in playoff or European cup final action, many of whom will feature in the non-cap game against the Barbarians at Twickenham on June 1.
The squad will be finalised after those matches, with around 40 expected to travel to New Zealand.
"The New Zealand tour and the game against the Barbarians give us a chance to look at a wide group of players, some of whom are well known to us from the Elite Player Squad, others who we will get to work with for the first time next week," Lancaster said in a statement.
"That is an exciting challenge for us coaches and it’s a great opportunity for those players to put a marker down for selection for the tour and the Barbarians game."
Speaking about Cipriani on Wednesday, Lancaster said: "I judge players on their form for their club. Reputation and what they've done in the past counts for something, but not everything.
"Danny's definitely improved and Sale have played well. He has controlled the games really well. I'm pleased with what he's done and he's in the equation."
Cipriani faces a tough battle to force himself into contention for the three-test tour of New Zealand but could well feature in the Barbarians game.
"Flyhalf is such a pivotal position in the team," said Lancaster. "Players like Freddie Burns, Stephen Myler, Owen Farrell and George Ford are already up to speed with our gameplan and plays. Danny would have to get up to speed with all of that and then deliver at international level in terms of execution.
"That's the challenge for players coming into an international side."
The squad includes a host of uncapped players as well as first-choice centre Billy Twelvetrees, who is fighting to overcome an ankle injury that was initially feared would rule him out of the New Zealand tour.
None of the players involved in the Premiership final on May 31 will be eligible for the first test in Auckland on June 7. A final featuring Harlequins and Northampton would potentially deprive Lancaster of eight first-choice players, including captain Chris Robshaw and next-in-line Tom Wood.
England training squad:
Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby), Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs), Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs), Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs), Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby), Michael Paterson (Sale Sharks), Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors), Dan Robson (Gloucester Rugby), Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) Tommy Taylor (Sale Sharks), Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks), Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby), Marland Yarde (London Irish)
(Editing by Justin Palmer)
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