Lancaster: Cipriani isn't a gamble
10:33pm Thursday 15th May 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Stuart Lancaster refuses to view the end of Danny Cipriani's six-year England exile as a gamble after offering the Sale fly-half the stage to tour New Zealand.
Cipriani has been selected in a preliminary 20-strong squad, consisting of players whose club seasons are over, which will train in south west London next week.
The 26-year-old won the last of his seven caps in 2008 after being overlooked by former England manager Martin Johnson because of misgivings about his celebrity lifestyle and attitude.
A strong season at Sale, where his game management has been instrumental in a sixth-place finish in the Aviva Premiership just 12 months after the club flirted with relegation, has propelled him back into Test contention.
And Lancaster has detected in Cipriani a growing maturity as a man since he turned to Steve Black - mentor to Jonny Wilkinson and Joey Barton - for guidance.
"I don't view it as a risk bringing a player into an international team. It's pretty important that he's matured as a person," Lancaster said.
"I have coached Danny more than most because for the majority of the time when I was Saxons coach he was in the squad.
"I have a pretty good understanding of how he works but I also know certainly over the last 12 months he has worked very hard in that area.
"The club have done a fantastic job to develop him and make him more rounded and mature as a person.
"He has grasped what he needs to do and Steve Black has made a big difference as well.
"Collectively the package has improved to a point where he has played well on the field and he has been on task off the field as a team player, so he gets an opportunity."
Having caught England's attention, the challenge now facing Cipriani is to persuade Lancaster his name should be included among the 40 chosen for the three-Test series in New Zealand.
The more likely option, given his position in the fly-half pecking order, is he will stay behind for the fixture against the Barbarians at Twickenham on June 1, but Lancaster has offered him sight of the All Blacks.
"This is an opportunity and ultimately selection will be determined by how effective he is off the field in a training environment and in terms of his ability to apply his skills to our gameplan," Lancaster said.
"If he is good enough he will get the opportunity to go to New Zealand and if we feel he's not quite ready then he will hopefully play in the Barbarians game, which would be a starting point for him in his reintroduction to international rugby."
"Off course Danny can play his way on to the tour, as they all can. We have a broad group of players.
"There are some guys ahead of him at the moment, but he has the opportunity."
Lancaster will expand the squad after this weekend's Premiership play-offs, when players will become available from the two beaten clubs.
England will contest the first Test against the All Blacks in Auckland on June 7 without their Premiership finalists, giving Lancaster the chance to discover just how much strength in depth he has at his disposal.
"We'll find out because the reality is it will be tested in certain positions and a lot will depend on who are the Premiership finalists," he said.
"Some combinations work better than others. Overall I'm very confident we'll put our a competitive team in that first Test."