Gloucester enforcer Ed Slater admits he is among the growing army of people who are increasingly bemused by England’s failure to embrace Danny Cipriani.
Cipriani, a leading contender to be crowned this season’s Premiership player-of-the-year, has been consistently outstanding for the West Country side and again unveiled his repertoire last weekend in their stunning comeback victory over Bath.
Yet, after being summoned back into the England fold against South Africa last summer, where his lone appearance coincided with him orchestrating the only Red Rose victory, the gifted playmaker has been ignored by boss Eddie Jones – a mystery to Slater.
Slater told The Rugby Paper: “I don’t know what Eddie is not seeing. All I can say is how good and how big an influence Danny has been for us – and he’s produced it week-in, week-out and been absolutely world-class in how he’s gone about things.
“With England, maybe it’s a different style and game plan, but he’s got a lot of freedom at Gloucester, he runs our attack really well and makes a lot of decisions.
“He’s certainly helped us get into a position where we can cement a place in the top four.
“It’s been great to have him around for the majority of the season, although I’d love to see him play for England because I know how much that drives him.”
While Cipriani’s England omission continues to mystify and could eventually cost Jones at the World Cup, Gloucester have felt the full benefit of his presence along with a burgeoning forward pack in which South African lock Franco Mostert has shone.
No longer can Gloucester’s pack be considered a pushover, with Slater explaining: “Franco’s settled in really well and he’s a good character with a mischievous side about him who is a good laugh around the training ground and has added an extra dimension.
“On the pitch he shows week-in, week-out that he’s consistently one of our best players and that’s been a massive boost for the whole side. I count myself lucky to be playing alongside him.”
Slater added: “One of Franco’s main strengths is running and calling the lineout and, fair play to him, Afrikaans is his first language while everything here is run in English but he’s got his head around that pretty quickly and we’re top of the OPTA stats on lineouts.
“A lot of credit has to go to him for that. He’s a tall beanpole so he gets in the air really well and he’s had a good few years doing it at the highest level with the Springboks and the Lions in Super Rugby, so he’s been terrific for us in the time he’s been here.”
With matches against Worcester, Newcastle and Sale to come, Gloucester require one more win to secure a play-off spot and potentially still have an outside chance of overhauling Saracens to finish second and earn a home-semi-final into the bargain.
Can they dream of beating Exeter and Saracens to the title?
Slater cautions: “It’s dangerous territory if you think about these things too soon because you don’t want to get caught short.
“What I will say, though, is that ultimately what’s driving us is we’re a tight-knit bunch and we’ve benefitted from consistency of selection.
“There’ve been times in the past when Gloucester would have imploded after going 17-0 down to Bath last week, but we sorted things out and if we can build some momentum over the next few weeks, we can then start analysing our chances.”
NEALE HARVEY / Photo: Getty Images
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