Tuesday 21 November 2017

Six Nations lifeline for Cipriani after Wasps reshuffle

Andrew Baldock

Danny Cipriani has been handed a Six Nations lifeline with a start at out-half in Wasps' heavyweight Guinness Premiership clash at Leicester today.

Cipriani has not managed to fulfil the immense promise he showed when he orchestrated England's demolition of Ireland at Twickenham at the end of the 2008 Six Nations, and has been overlooked by national manager Martin Johnson for the last 14 months.

He has not been at his sharpest since returning from a fractured fibula last month and has been kept out of the Wasps No 10 jersey by the less flashy Dave Walder -- Cipriani started at full-back, and failed to impress, in last week's shock home defeat to Newcastle.

There have been reports suggesting that Johnson has no intention of including the mercurial 22-year-old in his Six Nations England training squad, to be announced on Wednesday.

However, Cipriani has been given a chance at out-half and if he can shine at the most daunting venue in English rugby, he could yet force his way back into the Test reckoning.

"Danny starts at fly-half, having shown continued improvement in his increasing game-time," said Wasps rugby director Tony Hanks.

"He was threatening with the ball in hand at No 10 and No 15 last weekend.

Unlikely

However, former England captain Phil Vickery looks unlikely to play any part in the Six Nations.

The 33-year-old, a Test Lion last summer, is recovering from neck surgery after experiencing discomfort during Wasps' Amlin European Challenge Cup tie against French club Racing-Metro in October.

Initial estimations were for a lay-off of around three months.

But although Wasps say the tight-head prop is "recovering well" and continuing with his rehab programme, they also predict it will be a minimum of eight weeks before he returns to training.

However, Wasps had some better news about England flanker Joe Worsley, who should be back in full training early next month after suffering a knee ligament problem.

Scrum-half Joe Simpson, whose blistering form had seen him earmarked as a candidate for Johnson's England squad, faces three months out.

The former England U-20 star dislocated his shoulder in Wasps' clash against Harlequins at Twickenham a fortnight ago, and underwent surgery.

Wasps were the last team to beat Leicester at Welford Road -- in September 2008 -- and are looking to get their bid for a play-off place back on track in the only one of six Guinness Premiership games not to be frozen off this weekend.

"Facing Leicester at Welford Road is the best kind of challenge for us on the back of last weekend's defeat," added Hanks.

"Going up to Leicester is the kind of task that forces you to bounce back and refocus pretty quickly.

"Wasps-Leicester games always get the supporters revved up, and the rivalry only adds to the intensity of the game."

Wasps, though, face a Leicester side fresh from beating league leaders Saracens away from home last time out, with the Tigers knowing that a bonus-point win will take them top of the league.

"I was very pleased with the way we played at Saracens," said Leicester head coach Richard Cockerill.

"The result was very important, but the way we played was impressive too.

"We controlled the ball, we stood up to a very good pack and our accuracy was much better.

"Wasps are a good side and they've got a good record against us. They are also the team just behind us, so it is very important for us to keep our run going."

Irish Independent

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