In Brief

England rugby: Danny Cipriani handed lifeline by Eddie Jones

Gloucester fly-half Cipriani and Sale winger Chris Ashton remain in England’s plans

Danny’s not dumped

The bad boy of English rugby could still have a role to play in next year’s World Cup.

England coach Eddie Jones, speaking for the first time since Danny Cipriani was arrested outside a Jersey nightclub last month, offered his support to the talented Gloucester fly-half.

“Everyone makes mistakes. He was very contrite afterwards, realised he’d done the wrong thing and we move on from that now,” Jones says in the Evening Standard. “He was punished by his club, punished by whatever happened with the RFU. He’s now back playing and we’ll look at him in terms of how well he plays.”

Drunken tangle

Cipriani’s critics point to the fact that he has been making “mistakes” for the best part of a decade, including a conviction for drink-driving, and wonder how many chances must a man be given to show he’s matured.

There was little sign of grown-up behaviour when Cipriani got himself in a drunken tangle with a nightclub bouncer and a police officer during a pre-season Gloucester tour to Jersey.

“We spoke to Cipriani, we spoke to the club, we feel it’s been dealt with,” explained Jones. “It was a situation you wouldn’t like to have and you wouldn’t like to have again. Danny understands that.”

Short on stardust

Jones appreciates that Cipriani is one of the few exciting talents in an England squad short on stardust quality. With the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan 12 months away, this season is crucial for Jones as he looks to construct a side capable of challenging the All Blacks.

Work in progress

Cipriani could play a pivotal part in that strategy, particularly if he maintains the form he showed last Saturday as Gloucester beat Northampton on the opening day of the Premiership season.

Jones will name a preliminary squad on 20 September and hold a three-day training camp in Bristol later that same week. That will mark the start of the preparation for the quartet of demanding autumn internationals against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.

“We know he’s good when the ball is going forward,” said Jones when asked about Cipriani’s display against Northampton. “It’s how well he plays when the ball isn’t going forward and we’ve chatted to Danny about that. He knows what he has to do to work on his game, he’s pretty clear about where he needs to go.”

Not as good as all that

Cipriani has his hardcore fans among the rugby media and Jones slapped some of them down when he was reminded of the impressive pass the Gloucester fly-half produced at the weekend.

“Let’s get it into context,” retorted Jones. “It was a good pass but there were plenty of good passes at the weekend. Just because one player throws one big pass, it doesn’t mean he has a great game. I was at the game and maybe the reports don’t match the game.”

Ashton in with a shout

Jones also offered an olive branch to another of England’s pantomime villains, Sale Sharks winger Chris Ashton, who is serving a seven-week ban for a dangerous tackle in a pre-season warm-up fixture.

Like Cipriani, Ashton has had his collar felt by the rugby authorities on more than one occasion, but Jones said he’s “still in the mix” for selection despite the fact he will have played little rugby before the squad for the autumn Tests is announced in mid-October.

“It’s tough, but he’s certainly not out of the picture,” Jones said. “We would rather see him playing than on the sidelines, but he’s got a chance.”

England’s autumn international fixtures

England vs. South Africa
  • When: Saturday 3 November 
  • Where: Twickenham, London 
  • Kick-off time: 3pm
England vs. New Zealand
  • When: Saturday 10 November 
  • Where: Twickenham, London 
  • Kick-off time: 3pm
England vs. Japan
  • When: Saturday 17 November 
  • Where: Twickenham, London 
  • Kick-off time: 3pm
England vs. Australia
  • When: Saturday 24 November 
  • Where: Twickenham, London 
  • Kick-off time: 3pm

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