Brian Ashton, the England head coach who launched Danny Cipriani’s international career in 2008 and then had to drop him for visiting a London night club, admits it is “bizarre” the No10 will win only his 16th cap when he faces South Africa in Cape Town tomorrow.
Ashton first coached Cipriani at England age group level when he was just 15-years-old and believes current head coach Eddie Jones needs to give the outside half licence to thrill. With the series already lost, England need a win to end a run of five successive test defeats and Ashton is confident his former charge will deal with the pressure and expectation.
He told RugbyPass: “Danny is an opportunistic player and is always looking for the chance to do something which is why it is dangerous to nail him down into a rigid game plan.
“That takes away one of his best qualities; his ability to spot things quicker and earlier than other players. You give him a framework to play, make sure he fits into it and then just give him his head and let him go.
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“Danny is calmer these days and has grown up as a person and has doubled his life span since I first met him! He has gone through good and bad experiences and that is just part of life and has matured quite well. He has a way of speaking now which is no where near as excitable but has not lost his enthusiasm or way of looking at the game.
“There hwell-recorded recorded twists and turns during the ten years between his England starts but it does seem bizarre that a player with so much talent is only winning his 16th cap and you would have expected at this point it to be 60 caps if not more. It is never an easy way in English rugby for players with a different mind set and I am just delighted he has got this opportunity.
“I won’t be nervous for Danny and there will be adrenalin pumping through his body on Saturday but he is in a good place to deal with that.
“A lot will depend on what is happening in front of him, although he is someone who is very good off the back foot and people forget he is an outstanding games player and understands the tempo and flow of games and recognising how to get things back on the front foot.
“He is enjoys confronting people on the pitch and likes to test them out and that fun element has not been professionalised out of him.”
Cipriani on England duty in 2015
Ashton never doubted Cipriani would keep battling for a recall and rates is play, since returning from a period of playing in Australia to get away from off-the-field problems and bad publicity, as warranting the rating as England’s leading No10.
He added: “You always wish that a player with the talents Danny will get another opportunity at some point and the last season at Sale and the two at Wasps has shown he has been one of – if not – the form No10 in the Premiership. It is a selection on current form and has not been brought in for any other reason which is good for Danny.
“The difference between Danny now and the player I had at Bath as a 15-year-old is that his skills have been honed and his awareness of team play is more acute. But, I don’t believe his mind set has changed and he still has the ability to look at the game differently to other players.”
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