Danny Cipriani is still clinging to his faint dream of World Cup selection as England prepare to finalise their 31-man squad for the tournament this week.
Barring a late change of heart, the head coach, Stuart Lancaster, is on the verge of omitting both the Sale fly-half and Exeter’s Henry Slade but Cipriani hopes his eye-catching effort off the bench in Paris will not be in vain.
As well as scoring one of England’s two tries, Cipriani added much-needed craft to the backline and feels he has done “everything I can” to press his case. “Steve Diamond [the Sale director of rugby] phoned me and he said he had had a chat with Stuart and that it was very positive,” said Cipriani, fully aware his main rival Alex Goode went a long way towards securing his place at Twickenham a week ago.
“I am not going to say if it has bettered my case or not because we ended up losing the game. I showed I was disciplined enough to go on the field, work with the team and try and organise as best I can … I had to reaffirm I can play a bit. I’ve had a lot of positive messages on Twitter with people saying ‘I would like to see you in [the squad]’. There could be an injury, there could be anything.”
Cipriani also hinted that, whether he is chosen or not, he will remain in English club rugby to pursue his unfulfilled Test ambitions.
“I didn’t make the World Cup squad in 2007 but I went on to win a Premiership with Wasps that year. It gets you in the best shape of your life and I feel very prepared for whatever is ahead of me, whether it be the World Cup or the Premiership. I am 27, I am going to be in my prime in three or four years and I have a lot of rugby left in me. I pride myself on my pace and I am not going to lose that any time soon.”
Lancaster, however, gave little indication he will change his mind, with Luther Burrell and Sam Burgess also likely to edge out the fast-maturing Slade. “Nothing has been decided yet but you will need a balance in the squad of back-three, centres and half-backs,” said Lancaster, who will review his options in training on Tuesday and Thursday before making his final call. “Danny was good when he came on but I believe everyone else who came on was good as well.”
There is no prospect, for now, of a rethink at hooker where the suspended Dylan Hartley’s absence is conspicuous. The Northampton forward is suspended for the opening World Cup game against Fiji but could, in theory, feature thereafter. “I don’t see how we can do that because we would be going into the World Cup without a first-class hooker available at the start of the tournament,” countered Lancaster, admitting he was “disappointed” with England’s efforts in the opening 60 minutes in Paris.
The fly-half George Ford also acknowledged England were not good enough in possession but said there was no reason for panic. “I don’t think that performance means we no longer have a chance of winning the World Cup, not by any stretch of the imagination. We are a team looking to peak at the right time. We didn’t go as well as we liked tonight but it’s a kick up the backside.”
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