LONDON – Danny Cipriani was included in the latest England Rugby World Cup training squad on Friday, though the flyhalf still looks a long shot to make the plane for Japan in September.
Coach Eddie Jones is building his squad in increments, this one including players Gloucester and Northampton, the losing Premiership semi-finalists, who are now available after their mandatory five-week rest period.
Next week he will name his full training squad – including a large number of players from Saracens and Exeter, the Premiership finalists – and will cull several of those currently involved.
“It has been a really positive week, we have worked on our fundamentals of the game, a little bit of physical conditioning and I am really pleased with the attitude of the players,” Jones said in a statement.
“They have all come back from their leave in excellent condition, and the best I have seen in the time I have been with England.
“Next week we’ll add some players and be looking to improve our physical conditioning, ability to understand how we want to play the game and start to increase the pressure at training.”
Cipriani, 31, had a superb season with Gloucester and was named Premiership player of the year and RPA players’ player.
Despite that, he remains third in the England pecking order behind Owen Farrell and George Ford and, with Jones likely to take only two flyhalves to the World Cup, looks set to miss out again having never featured in the sport’s premier event.
He won the last of his 16 caps on the tour of South Africa in June 2018, and that was his first start for 10 years.
He was subsequently omitted from the squads for the November internationals and this year’s Six Nations.
Jones has previously said he is unconcerned about Cipriani’s “baggage” from a colourful past off the pitch, that dates back to his original call-up by Brian Ashton when he was 20.
The bigger issue appears to be the way he plays the game, which generally means Cipriani running the show, and not always along the same lines as his coaches would like.
Cipriani’s Gloucester halfback partner, New Zealand-born Willi Heinz, was also included in Friday’s squad.
Forwards: Dan Cole, Tom Curry, Alex Dombrandt, Tom Dunn, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Val Rapava Ruskin, Nick Schonert, Brad Shields, Jack Singleton, Sam Underhill, Mark Wilson.
Backs: Mike Brown, Danny Cipriani, Joe Cokanasiga, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Piers Francis, Willi Heinz, Jonathan Joseph, Jonny May, Ruaridh McConnochie, Dan Robson, Ben Te’o, Ollie Thorley, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Watson, Ben Youngs.