Danny Cipriani: stick or twist?


Of all the logistical nightmares that have been borne out of the cock-up that is the clash between the Aviva Premiership final and England’s first test in New Zealand, the most intriguing is that at fly-half. With Owen Farrell and Stephen Myler in action domestically and George Ford needing surgery, Freddie Burns and Danny Cipriani are the only two outside halves in the England squad for the first test.

So who will start? Looking at it purely in terms of form, there is no contest. Cipriani has had a year so good on the pitch that he has managed to play himself back into international contention after it seemed those bridges had been irrevocably burnt. Freddie Burns, meanwhile, has found himself benching to part-time fly-half Ryan Mills.

But Burns has been around the England squad for a while now; he is a man that Lancaster trusts. Do not underestimate how important this is – he will be familiar with the way England do things, know all the support staff, and other such important matters when touring.

Inevitably Cipriani will be the focus of intense media coverage between now and the first test, and rightly so given the acrimonious circumstances in which he left the England set-up all those years ago. Rumours of not taking training seriously and a bust-up with the then Saxons head coach – one Stuart Lancaster – means his return to the test arena is quite a story.

But this time around, there has been none of the behaviour that so soured the relationship back then; none of the showboating in training, the playboy antics off the field.

“I’ve not seen any of that behaviour,” said Lancaster. “He has been hungry to learn and very clear in his desire to be here for the right reasons. As a coach, you are watching all the time for the little cues and tell-tale signs that confirm or deny that. I have to say that so far he’s been excellent.”

Nevertheless, we should not be surprised if Lancaster makes what looks from the outside to be a bit of a curveball selection and throws Freddie Burns into the starting line-up for the first test. Despite having had a poor season, the Gloucester playmaker is a known quantity to the coach and has reportedly been performing to the levels we know he is capable of in training. Lancaster’s comments this week have hinted at such.

“He [Cipriani] is a little behind Freddie in that regard because Freddie’s had so much time and experience [training] with us over the last two years,” Lancaster said. “Danny has played well on a number of occasions this season, but there are definitely areas of his game he could do better.”

At the beginning of the season, not many England fans would have had Freddie Burns and Danny Cipriani down as the options at fly-half, but that is the hand Lancaster has been dealt. If you were Stuart Lancaster, which card would you play?

Who should start at fly-half for England in the first test against New Zealand?

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By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

16 thoughts on “Danny Cipriani: stick or twist?

  1. If you were the 10 would you want to avoid starting? With a lot of 2nd choice players in this side might you worry that a battering could hurt your rep?

    1. You could argue that with a lot of second choice players, you could easily make a big name for yourself by playing well in a bad team. (Pennell and Worcester for example).

      I’d start with Cipriani. He has been light years ahead of Burns this season on form. I don’t know who i’d play at 12 to cover his missed tackles though!!

      1. It’s especially hard for the fly half to look assured if the pack is going backwards and the backs aren’t breaking the gain line. Much easier for a fullback to create his own space and time

    2. They are probably fighting it out for the bench spot in the second/third tests, I don’t see it’s an advantage to not start or not play just because we are missing some first choice players.

  2. Cipriani. All day.

    Burns may be playing well in training but his been really poor this season. Against Wasps towards the end of the season (Amlin quarter final I think it was), he was outplayed completely by Andy Goode. That is a man I want starting away in NZ.

    This does depend on Cipraini’s attitude around camp and on tour, which I would assume/ hope will be impeccable. If that is the case, he must start.

  3. I hope it’s not Burns, talented kid but a shocking season. Being in the England set up during the 6N didn’t revive his form or confidence (was awful for the Saxons) and I’d fear for him having an implosion if he starts the first test. I wish he wasn’t going to Tigers, it’s a tough sink or swim environment for him next season, somewhere like Wasps looked a better fit.

  4. Burns, he’s been in the setup far longer and understands Lancaster’s goals much more clearly than Cips does. Furthermore I think his domestic form can almost be discounted, A) because it’s clear from players like Morgan and at the other end Ashton and Strettle that premiership form is not the be-all and end-all of a player’s Test level quality, and B) Davies has been such a helmet while in charge of Gloucester that it’s entirely feasible we’ll see a totally different Freddie Burns in an England shirt- as with Ben Morgan.

    1. suggesting that Cipriani does not understand Lancaster’s goals? any reasoning behind that claim?

    2. Burns had an abomination of a performance for the Saxons, so whilst the damage to his confidence has clearly been done at club level sticking him in a white shirt wasn’t the answer to getting it back.

  5. Cipriani for me. He has a massive point to prove, and has played in NZ before (albeit for the Rebels), and it is pretty much his last shot at an International career.

    I don’t want to believe that any pro player would not want to start any game, No matter how likely a thrashing is!

  6. If being in and around the squad for 2 years us so critical why was Ford was picked ahead of Burns in the 6n?

    I’m all for consistency but Lancaster can be extremely stubborn sometimes to the detriment of the team. The 2013 6n and AIs being a case in point.

  7. I knew Cipriani would be ahead in this poll. Please god no Twelvetrees at 10, he’s not a international fly half, let him do what he does best which is at 12.

    The one thing that bothers me is if Burns starts then is he going to be the goal kicker or make Twelvetrees do the kicking. Frankly i feel that if burns begins missing he is going to self destruct like George ford did, but if we make Twelvetrees do the kicking that is going to put a lot of pressure on Twelvetrees. The same is also said to Cipriani.

  8. I understand the logic behind going with Burns. he is familiar with England’s systems and to be perfectly honest, all of the training/practising in the world won’t determine whether Cipriani can work with these systems in the cauldron of a New Zealand test match.

    However, having seen Burns play a few times this season (including for the Saxons), I would be concerned for his confidence if things do not start well for England (as would be reasonable to expect). Again – this is something that cannot really be measured on the training field.

    It seems to me that Cipriani has added a certain clarity of thinking to his game this season, and as well as Sale have played, they have not always provided him with a dominating platform to work with.

    So, from outside of their camp it appears to be a straight punt between Cipriani’s ability to play to England’s systems, and Burn’s ability to retain his composure in what will be (for both) a very difficult and pressurised environment.

    I would be more comfortable with Cipriani.

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