Cipriani stands by as Lancaster’s options dwindle

SIX years after winning his last England cap fly-half Danny Cipriani looks to be in the driving seat to start at No10 against New Zealand next month, after it emerged yesterday that George Ford is to undergo a shoulder operation.

Head coach Stuart Lancaster had begun making plans for the first of three Tests against the All Blacks without fly-halves Owen Farrell and Stephen Myler, who are both set to play in the Premiership final the previous weekend.

But with 21-year-old Ford now due to go under the knife after Bath’s Amlin Challenge Cup final on Friday, Lancaster will be left to choose between Cipriani or Freddie Burns, who joined Leicester from Gloucester yesterday and last represented the Red Rose 11 months ago.

By contrast, Cipriani has shone for Sale this term, scoring 143 points in 18 appearances, and was named Premiership player of the month for March.

And should he return to England’s starting line-up for the first time since 2008 in Auckland, it would cap a huge turnaround in fortunes for the 26-year-old.

Billed as the natural successor to World Cup winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, Cipriani made two appearances as a replacement in the 2008 Six Nations and was in line to make his first start against Scotland, but was dropped from the team having been pictured leaving a London nightclub two days before the game.

Further disciplinary problems came to the fore during nights out after his transfer from London Wasps to Melbourne Rebels and he quickly fell out of favour with England coach Martin Johnson.

Cipriani looked get his Test career back on track following his return to England with Sale, but on a team night out in April last year was hit by a double-decker bus while on a pub crawl in Leeds, leading team owner Nigel Kennedy to question his attitude and willingness in the tackle.

However, with a bright season behind him Cipriani finally looks set to win an eighth England cap.