Grown-up young veteran Cipriani back in England frame


  • Rugby
  • Wednesday, 21 Jan 2015

LONDON (Reuters) - It still seems as if Danny Cipriani is a rebellious teenager, confident his prodigious talent will trump any notion of a bad attitude, yet the reality is that he is now 27 and has been a professional for 10 years.

Still fresh-faced, but scarred physically and mentally from that decade in the limelight, he began the latest upsurge of his roller-coaster career on Wednesday when was named in England's training squad for their Six Nations opener in Wales on Feb. 6.

He has a real chance to grab a place in the World Cup squad having watched the two previous tournaments from afar.

Cipriani made his international debut in 2008 but has garnered only nine caps, five of those as a replacement, since.

He has drifted from club to club, including a stint in Australia, showing flashes of brilliance and creativity that few others in the English game can match.

However, he also carried with him the reputation of an ego that more than matched his talents, a man who even as a fledgling did not like to take direction from team mates or coaches and someone who has blazed a trail of chaos that is the antithesis of everything Stuart Lancaster has been at pains to develop since taking over as England coach in 2012.

Following the off-field shenanigans that bedevilled England’s 2011 World Cup campaign in New Zealand, Lancaster shipped out several players -- including number eight Nick Easter who was also recalled to the squad on Wednesday.

If anyone was destined to remain on the outside looking in at that "culture change" it was Cipriani.

A brilliant all-round sportsman, he always looked destined for international honours once he concentrated on rugby, yet seemed determined to do all he could to ruin things for himself.

Due to make his first England start against Scotland in 2008, he was summarily dropped by then-coach Brian Ashton after being seen outside a nightclub in the early hours of the morning during the build-up.

Restored to start against Ireland -- ahead of Jonny Wilkinson -- he delivered a man-of-the-match performance in a 33-10 victory and it seemed inconceivable then that it would be his last involvement in the Six Nations to date.

HORRIFIC INJURY

After an horrific ankle injury, more off-field issues and a gradual dip in form, he never looked former England coach Martin Johnson's sort of player and he eventually moved to Australia, taking himself out of the equation for the 2011 World Cup.

His stint in Melbourne was largely forgettable, apart, of course, from more "issues" including being fined for taking a bottle of vodka from a bar, and when he returned to England to join Sale in 2012 he looked light years away from an international recall.

However, after a sticky start, including being knocked down by a bus while on a pub crawl, he eventually got his head down, managed to stay out of the gossip pages and began to force Lancaster to take notice.

The door finally reopened in 2014 when Cipriani was included in the squad to tour New Zealand and played two of the three test defeats off the bench.

On Wednesday he was named alongside Owen Farrell, George Ford and Stephen Myler as one of four flyhalves hoping to feature against Wales in Cardiff.

"Selection or otherwise won't come down to previous reputation but who is delivering week in week out and what we see in training," Lancaster told reporters at Twickenham on Wednesday.

"We had a chat with Danny and told him what we needed from him and he's improved his game and worked hard.

"He's not been far away for a while really; he came off the bench in New Zealand, he played in the Crusaders game and came into camp in August.

"It might be a few years since he won most of his caps but he’s still only 27 and I see him being around for the next two, three or four years."

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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