Danny Cipriani determined to seize England chance

Sale flyhalf back in Six Nations fold after seven years in the international wilderness

Danny Cipriani is back in the England set-up after seven years in the international wilderness. (Photograph: INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

Danny Cipriani is back in the England set-up after seven years in the international wilderness. (Photograph: INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

 

It had been seven long years since Danny Cipriani was last cheered to the Twickenham rafters by an appreciative Six Nations crowd, which made his try-scoring return against Italy all the sweeter. What happens now is largely up to Stuart Lancaster but the fly-half has pledged to do all he possibly can to remain a part of England’s plans.

Cipriani already knew what he was missing, having made a return to Test rugby off the bench in New Zealand last summer, but scoring with only his second touch of the ball on Saturday has further heightened his desire to extend his international resurrection. “There’s no way I want to be out of this England side ever again, for as long as I’m playing,” he says softly, visibly determined to make up for lost time.

No one knows better than Cipriani that the selectorial odds are still piled up against him. Owen Farrell will be fit before the end of the season and it seems unlikely England will have room for more than two specialist fly-halves in their 31-man World Cup squad. All he can do is grasp whatever scraps materialise as Ford’s understudy and keep displaying the application which has increasingly impressed his coaches at Sale.

As far as Cipriani is concerned, however, a degree of fate is increasingly involved. He has revealed on Twitter he dedicated his try to his late uncle who, just before he passed away in November, predicted his nephew would score on his international comeback. “I was with him in his last hour talking about everything and he said it would just be my luck to play and score in my first opportunity.” Posting a picture of himself in mid-air over the Italian line he also described the sensation of scoring for England as “the best feeling in the world – things in life shape us, refocus us.”

By his own admission Cipriani is also a wiser man than he was in the distant days of 2008. While he gave one of the great fly-half displays against Ireland at Twickenham that year, injury and off-field distractions led to a decision to relocate to Australia which did nothing for his international prospects. A rather better move has been his link-up with Steve Black, Jonny Wilkinson’s former mentor, which has sharpened his focus and restored his appetite to make the most of his natural talent.

These days Cipriani also keeps a journal, detailing his personal goals and emotions, and comes across as a far more dedicated athlete. “You grow up and gaps in your life get filled, whatever they may be. I just feel like I’m in a much wiser position and more stable in that way. Previously I probably took it all for granted a little bit … you don’t really appreciate the moments as they come along. That’s what I’m doing now. I’m very focused on making the best of my ability … I’m only 27, so I’m still a good three or four years off my peak.”

Ford is going to be extremely hard to shift and Cipriani knows his best chance of staying involved is to concentrate on being a good team man first and foremost. “It’s all about moving forward as a squad, it’s not about the individual. I am not going to wish anyone to slip up. At some point maybe the opportunity may come. Everyone is aiming to get to that No1 spot, whatever position it is.”

“But if my chance comes in 20- minute spells, I need to do what is right for the team to win the game,” he added. “Whatever it might be I have to do it because right now we have got a special team building.”

Whatever else the fates have in store for him, Cipriani will never forget his Twickenham re-entry, not least the roar from the stands when he came on. “You try not to take note of the background but I was very humbled by the reaction I got from the crowd. Inside I am very excited to be here and to have scored the try. But in my head the job is not done. There is still a lot for me to work on.”

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