Rugby: Cipriani named in England squad

Danny Cipriani. Photo / Getty Images
Danny Cipriani. Photo / Getty Images

Danny Cipriani completed his transformation from England outcast to potential test starter by earning a first international call-up in six years today for the tour of New Zealand in June.

Back from the international wilderness after enjoying his best season in many years, the 26-year-old first five-eighth was selected along with seven uncapped players in an initial 30-man squad named by England coach Stuart Lancaster.

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Cipriani will compete with Freddie Burns, the only other No. 10 in the squad, to start the first test in Auckland on June 7.

A further batch of players, likely including first-choice England number 10 Owen Farrell, will be added to the squad after Sunday's English Premiership final between Saracens and Northampton but will only be available for the second and third tests against the All Blacks.

"It's in Freddie's and Danny's court," England coach Stuart Lancaster said, before adding of Cipriani: "He has come up to speed, got to know the plays and built relationships with the players.

"He is excited about being here."

The uncapped players are center Henry Trinder, fullback Chris Pennell and forwards Kieran Brookes, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Gray, Dave Ward and Ed Slater.

Cipriani was widely touted as the heir to England great Jonny Wilkinson after a brilliant test debut against Ireland in the Six Nations in 2008, but his international career never kicked on and he drifted out of the England setup because of injury, off-field issues and concerns about his dedication to the sport.

He has shown more maturity, on and off the field, over the past season with Sale Sharks, though, and has caught the attention of Lancaster - a disciplinarian who places high demands on players in terms of their off-the-field behaviour.

Cipriani has benefited from an injury to rival No. 10 George Ford, who probably would have been chosen with Burns and started the first test but was ruled out of the tour with a shoulder injury.

Winger Marland Yarde is back in the squad after missing all of this year's Six Nations with a hip problem, and flanker James Haskell has been called up for the first time since the 2013 Six Nations. Centre Billy Twelvetrees has been struggling with an ankle injury but will travel and be further assessed at the end of this week.

Key players like Courtney Lawes, Dylan Hartley, Luther Burrell, Farrell, Mako Vunipola and Billy Vunipola will be missing for England in the first test because of their teams' involvement in the Premiership final.

England's tour of New Zealand includes tests on three consecutive Saturdays, as well as a midweek match against the Canterbury-based Crusaders.

The initial 30-man squad flies out tomorrow.

Squad:
Forwards: Joe Marler, Matt Mullan, Kieran Brookes, Henry Thomas, David Wilson, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Gray, Dave Ward, Rob Webber, Dave Attwood, Joe Launchbury, Geoff Parling, Ed Slater, James Haskell, Tom Johnson, Matt Kvesic, Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw.

Backs: Danny Care, Ben Youngs, Freddie Burns, Danny Cipriani, Kyle Eastmond, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Trinder, Billy Twelvetrees, Mike Brown, Jonny May, Chris Pennell, Marland Yarde.

- AP

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