In-form Danny Cipriani is making it difficult for new England head coach Eddie Jones to leave the quicksilver fly-half out of his squad for the Six Nations, according to Sale boss Steve Diamond.
Cipriani, now 28, is still to justify the predictions of a stellar international career that greeted his emergence at Wasps almost a decade ago but has enjoyed a more settled spell since moving to the north-west in 2012.
He is the top-scoring No10 in the Premiership so far this season with 75 points, 15 of which came in Sale’s narrow win over his former side on Saturday at the AJ Bell Stadium.
“He is playing really well,” said director of rugby Diamond. “I think he’s pushing himself into that potential England squad. You learn more playing for a club like Sale when it doesn’t always go well and you have to learn how to develop as a player. Danny’s done that over the past two or three years, hence why he said last week that he wants to stay around for the next couple of years.”
Australian Jones, who succeeded Stuart Lancaster in the wake of last year’s ill-fated home World Cup, is mulling his first squad ahead of the Six Nations opener in Scotland on 6 February.
He would likely have to drop either George Ford of Bath or Saracens’ Owen Farrell, the two fly-halves favoured by Lancaster, in order to put his faith in a character with a chequered off-field history.
There are signs that Jones – said to be considering repeatedly banned hooker Dylan Hartley as captain – is willing to disregard previous controversies, and Diamond is adamant that Cipriani has changed.
“He understands what he’s got to do. He’s had a rough time goal-kicking and he has put the hours in. We virtually open the stadium here every day for him to practise,” he added.
“It’s just been his maturity as a player. As a bloke, he has grown out of all of his shenanigans when he came, and we are three or four years down the line now.”