Planet Rugby

Cipriani earning England recall

20th April 2014 15:09

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On the brink: Danny Cipriani

With Sale clinching a spot in next year's Rugby Champions Cup thanks to scoring eight tries at Exeter, their fly-half is being noticed.

England coach Andy Farrell watched on at Sandy Park as Danny Cipriani conducted the Sharks to a stunning 55-12 win over their hosts.

This is the same Sale that wallowed at the bottom of the Aviva Premiership last season and avoided relegation, having seemed certain to drop around Christmas.

Their success certainly isn't all about Cipriani. A hard-nosed, grizzly pack have bullied opposing sides all season.

They are lead outstandingly by Dan Braid, the former Blues and Reds flanker whose arrival at Carrington last year in January is viewed as the beginning of Sale's upturn in fortune. Michael Paterson, now qualified to play for England, is another catching the eye.

At the heart of it all though lies England's formerly notorious troublemaker.

Now mentored by Steve Black, Jonny Wilkinson's long-time advisor and close friend, Cipriani is less of media personality and more of a quality fly-half than he has been for years.

He has not played for England since 2008 at the age of just 20. Should he be recalled for the tour to New Zealand in June, then it will mark the conclusion of a winding arc that has taken Cipriani from banishment to Melbourne and back to critical acclaim.

The beauty of Cipriani joining the Rebels so young in his career was that there would always be enough time, should he play well enough, for an England recall if his career found itself back on track.

England have a vacancy for a third fly-half to take on tour with Owen Farrell and George Ford the clear first-choice pair, but with Stephen Myler and Freddie Burns both struggling with injuries and form - England's two fly-halves in Argentina last year - Cipriani has a chance.

Helped by Black, Cipriani has taken a more in-depth approach to his preparations off the field and is reaping the benefits on it.

As Sale's orchestrator he is making better decisions on a more consistent basis, hence their rise into the top six.

His attacking instincts have always been highly valued - that ability to play up on the line and throw out flat passes as he well he does is rare - while his defence no longer resembles a turnstile, but a symbol of his new work ethic.

Cipriani's hard graft will have to continue if he is to usurp Farrell, which seems unlikely, but the initial steps towards winning a Test recall appears to have been achieved. He can now benefit England rather than be a hinderance.

by Ben Coles

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