Unless he has a late and unexpected change of heart, England coach Eddie Jones will be going to this year's Rugby World Cup without the country's best player.

Danny Cipriani, a headline-grabbing first-five who splits opinion more than any rugby player in England, has capped a brilliant domestic season — his first with Gloucester — by becoming only the second person to be voted the English Premiership's player of the season by both his peers and journalists in the same year.

At age 31, Cipriani is at the peak of his powers. He might no longer possess the same verve he had as a dashing 20-year-old who tore Ireland apart on his international debut in 2008, but the 2019 version of Cipriani is more assured, more consistent, more clinical — and still has that killer pass and rugby brain that marked him out as such a special talent.

Just ask the notoriously passionate and boisterous fans of Gloucester, who he has guided into the English Premiership playoffs for its first time since 2011.

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Why, then, is Cipriani still being overlooked by his national team?

Danny Cipriani is at the peak of his powers. Photo / Getty Images
Danny Cipriani is at the peak of his powers. Photo / Getty Images

The pair of awards handed to him over the last two weeks only served to add further scrutiny on Jones' decision to overlook Cipriani for England duty the entire season, indeed for most of a tenure that began after the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Cipriani's 16th and last appearance for England was in the third and final test against South Africa in June, his first start in almost a decade. He came off the bench for another test in that series, but they remain his only matches under Jones.

Jones said he left Cipriani out of his squad for the November tests last year purely for form reasons, which raised eyebrows at the time. Yet the five-eighths' level has remained high for the rest of the season and he is still ignored.

Do Cipriani's off-the-field antics over the past decade still tarnish his reputation in Jones' eyes? The fact that he was convicted of assault and resisting arrest following an incident during a night out in pre-season with his new Gloucester teammates in August didn't help the cause of a player who no longer is the "celebrity" player he once was.

Whatever the reasons, Cipriani's last chance of convincing Jones looks to be this weekend, when Gloucester takes on Saracens in the playoff semifinals and Cipriani goes head-to-head with Owen Farrell.

Jones should be in attendance.

- AP

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