ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster has left the door ajar for errant fly-half Danny Cipriani to make a sensational return from four years in the international wilderness.
However, Lancaster laced his words of encouragement for Cipriani, whose summer move back to the Premiership with ambitious Sale was confirmed yesterday, with a series of stark warnings.
He told the Melbourne Rebels back that he faces stiff competition for the No10 shirt, would have to work his way up through the second-string Saxons side and would only be recalled if he shows the right attitude.
“He [Cipriani] is coming back into a pretty competitive position,” said Lancaster. “When you look at the strides that Owen Farrell made during the Six Nations, and Charlie Hodgson’s contribution; Toby Flood is a high-quality player whom we’ve all got a lot of time for – and you’ve got a lot of lads coming through as well.
“It’s great he’s come back to England, he has put his front foot forwards. I don’t think Danny is any different to any young players who want to play for England. He will come back and have to do what every other player will have to do: play well for his club, try to get into the Saxons and then into the senior squad.
“If he does do that then it is about buying into the culture. If people don’t buy into it – it doesn’t matter whether it’s Danny or anyone else – there are plenty of players on the list.”
Cipriani has signed a three-year contract with Sale, a move he hopes will help him earn a Test recall ahead of the 2015 World Cup in England, having spent this and last season playing in Australia.
The 24-year-old former Wasps star, who earned notoriety for his celebrity status, quit the Premiership after falling out of favour with ex-England manager Martin Johnson and last played for his country in 2008.
He has enjoyed a degree of on-field success at Melbourne Rebels, but was also banned by the club last season for repeated episodes of indiscipline.