Friday, December 25, 2009


JONNY WILKINSON’S position as England’s unopposed fi rst choice fly-half is under threat with Danny Cipriani making his long awaited return to action. Cipriani – just 21 – was once hailed as the next star of the English gamebut controversy, loss of form and injury have delayed his confirmation as a world star.
Danny Cipriani is ready to put his frustrations behind him

He showed his class guiding his country to a spectacular 33-10 drubbing of Ireland in the 2008 Six Nations Championships but has not been able to build on that.

He starts on the bench today as a late call-up for Wasps as they take on Leicester at Adams Park.

England could do with Cipriani’s brand of magic as they are now playing some of their dullest rugby in years. If he could show the form that had fans on the edge of their seats when he first broke into the Red Rose side, then England would have genuine competition at fly-half.

Questions are being asked about Wilkinson, who is no longer seen as the ringmaster he once was.

But, like England skipper Steve Borthwick, he is currently seen as an untouchable – but Cipriani could force England head coach Martin Johnson into a selection dilemma over the next few weeks.

The Wilkinson of 2009 – not the creative Wilkinson of 2003 – appears to suit England’s game plan of kicking the ball long and waiting for mistakes, rather than keeping the ball in hand and setting stadiums alight.

Cipriani’s Wasps team-mate and best friend Paul Sackey believes that he is the kind of fl air player that England are crying out for. Sackey points out that even though Cipriani can kick the ball, he does look to try to make magic
before hoofing it 50 metres. Sackey said: “Cips is an unbelievable talent.

Even though he does kick, he is always one of those guys who looks to run before he kicks. But you have got to play to the way you’re told.

“Like Wilkinson, Danny is an amazing player and I think at the moment England are missing fl air, which Cipriani brings. “England have got very good players but they are missing someone who makes you sit on the
edge of your seat and do something special.”

Cipriani has been out of action since early October with a hairline fracture in his right leg and a chest infection but is looking to put his frustrations behind him. Sackey, who is himself returning to fitness from a broken leg that caused him to miss the British Lions tour in the summer, believes that kicking should be the last resort for any team.

“At the moment rugby is a kicking game. We have been told that first and foremost we need to
kick. Whereas I feel you only kick when there is absolutely nothing on,” he said.

“That’s how I feel English rugby is going at the moment, it’s just boot it down the fi eld, we are not looking to put any phases together, we are playing it very safe.”

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