England on agenda if Sale survive says Danny Cirpiani

Danny CiprianiDanny Cipriani believes his rollercoaster season could yet culminate in a call-up for England’s tour of Argentina – if he can engineer Sale’s Premiership survival.
Fly-half Cipriani, 25, has endured a torrid time since joining the Sharks last summer after an equally hectic spell with the Melbourne Rebels.
Publicly scapegoated by ex-Sale boss John Mitchell before Christmas on account of his “unreliable defending”, Cipriani spent the first four months of the season on the back foot behind an underperforming pack.
Sharks owner Brian Kennedy added further criticism, saying: “If you’re not prepared to put your body on the line for this club, who pay your wages and give you a chance, then you won’t be in the squad, will you?”
Cipriani elected to fight back and, operating behind a revitalised pack, stiffened following the arrival of New Zealand flanker Daniel Braid, he has shown signs of recapturing his best form.
Cipriani told The Rugby Paper: “We’ve become a lot more consistent since Christmas and Steve Diamond deserves a lot of credit for that. He’s passionate about Sale, passionate about forward play and he’s sorting that side of things out.
“You saw that at Wasps last week, where the forwards got us on to the front foot and I was able to play my natural game. I’m working hard to improve the defensive aspects but any fly-half needs good forwards in front of him.
“Steve has worked hard on that and bringing in Dan Braid has been a masterstroke. He’s a world-class player who’s got vast experience in Super XV and he’s a great communicator, giving advice to the forwards and all of us around him.
“He could be one of the signings of the season and we’re starting to get some structure in our game.”
Cipriani brushes off the criticism from Mitchell and Kennedy, saying: “John’s not here anymore and Brian says he was taken out of context.
“It wasn’t a particularly great time when John was here. We didn’t know whether he was staying or going and that creates uncertainty and it’s good we now know where we stand with Dimes (Diamond) for the rest of the year.”
With England’s fly-half stocks looking healthy with Owen Farrell, Toby Flood and Freddie Burns, plus George Ford following up, there appears to be no obvious route into the senior international set-up at this juncture.
But with Farrell looking a certainty for the Lions tour to Australia and England boss Stuart Lancaster set to take an enlarged squad to Argentina, a good run of form to the end of the season might open the door for Cipriani.
He said: “I spoke to Stuart recently and he’s given me some encouragement. I’m still in their thoughts, just like everyone else, and he’s told me to keep working hard and show what I can do.
“It’s still my dream to play for England. I came back from Australia to fulfil that ambition.
“I’m trying to keep my head down, work hard and we’ll see what happens. But it all depends on how I play for Sale and that’s my focus. We’re at the wrong end of the table and the main thing is get clear.”
Cipriani made the last of his seven England appearances against New Zealand at Twickenham in November, 2008, and is a member of the ‘lost generation’ of gifted fly-halves that includes Shane Geraghty, Ryan Lamb and Ryan Davis.
Unpredictability is their watchword and Cipriani regrets the fact that England have so often opted for conservatism over genius.
He added: “Brian Ashton would have a thing or two to say about that! It’s a shame that guys like Shane and Lamby – lads I grew up with in the age-group sides – have been overlooked, but that’s the way of the world sometimes.
“Hopefully we can all come again and show what we’re made of.”
NEALE HARVEY

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