Danny Cipriani: this one has perplexed us for some time. We lauded his arrival and the dethroning of St Jonny back in 2008, when he broke into the England team, played astonishingly well against Ireland and seemed to be the answer to England’s prayers.
Just as his international career was about to take off, however, Cipriani suffered an horrific ankle injury which kept him out of action for the end of Wasps’ season, and he missed England’s summer tour. It looked as though he would only return in time for the 2009 Six Nations, but the Wasps medics miraculously had him fit ahead of schedule and he returned to England’s starting line up for the first three Autumn Internationals in 2008.
We now know that his return was somewhat premature, and after his disappointing performances in the white shirt led to his demotion for the fourth Test of that series, Cipriani has been in the international wilderness ever since.
We have speculated on what he has done wrong. Since showing promise for Wasps and for England Saxons – albeit erratically – Cipriani has been overlooked by Martin Johnson for England’s Number 10 shirt, with the England manager favouring the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Toby Flood, Shane Geraghty and even Andy Goode.
But he has so much potential and with England woefully short of attacking flair, there must be another reason for his omission. Is it his attitude that displeases Johnno? Is he really that unpopular in the England ranks? Is it purely a lack of form?
Cipriani has hit the headlines again recently, and it now looks as though he’ll be leaving Wasps for sunnier shores at the end of this season. The new Super 15 franchise, Melbourne Rebels, are reportedly preparing an offer, and he is apparently ready to accept it.
Is this the right thing for him to do? Johnno has said he won’t consider him if he’s that far away, but would he consider him anyway? This move would probably rule him out of the Rugby World Cup in 2011, but perhaps the long-term benefits would outweigh this?
Is it possible that Cipriani will return to England in two or three years time with some valuable experience of Super Rugby, aged only 25 or 26, and finally ready to nail down the England jersey? Or is he a lost cause looking for a lucrative deal and a tan?