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Some things are inevitable

England head coach Eddie Jones is no stranger to controversy – some might say he thrives upon it – but even he must be puzzled by this week’s furore in the press and social media about his non-selection of the mercurial Danny Cipriani for his early England training squad in advance of this years’ season of autumn internationals.

I’ve mentioned this previously on the Rust but Cipriani is an enigma, a Marmite figure if you will. People either love or hate him.

On one celebrated occasion a boss I worked for – I thought rather daringly but hilariously at the time – told our abrasive managing director in a public meeting: “The thing is, Richard, I’ve got my good points and my bad points … and when you hire me you get both” (he subsequently departed the company about two months later and I then took his job).

Characters such as Cipriani divide people as spectacularly as Charlton Heston once did the Red Sea in the 1956 Hollywood epic The Ten Commandments.

Somehow, inexplicably to me, the sporting/rugby correspondent contingent of Fleet Street’s finest are overwhelmingly slavishly devoted to worshiping the maverick fly half now plying his trade in the Premiership with Gloucester and who admittedly has begun the new season in a good run of form.

Here follow two recent representative examples of anguish, disbelief and puzzlement on the websites of the UK’s national newspapers:

Firstly, a piece by Jack de Menezes as appears in the – INDEPENDENT

Secondly, the normally-sound Robert Kitson, writing in the – GUARDIAN

From my stance as a Cipriani agnostic – for all his talents, I regard him as flaky, defensively suspect, not a team player and just as likely to lose you a game as win you one in a moment with an outrageous piece of attempted inventive play.

And, of course, he comes with ‘baggage’ – the celebrity column appearances, the drinking, the night clubs, the ladies, the brushes with the law.

That’s why, without being entirely convinced that Eddie Jones is the Messiah, I agree with his decision to exclude Cipriani from the current squad.

If your primary – some might say only – goal is to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup (now less than 12 months away) you have got to pick players whom you think are best suited to play the way you want, deal with the many and varied pressures of World Cup rugby and, as important as any of the above, last the pace.

In a squad of 35, you cannot afford to have too many extravagant luxuries. And in my view that is what Cipriani is, for good or ill.

This is a situation where the phrase “He could do a job for me” is relevant and not in a manner to Cipriani’s advantage.

You know what you’re going to get with certain players – e.g. Owen Farrell, George Ford and now Johnny May (who formerly used to be either very good or very bad but recently has eliminated the latter from his game).

You know that – for a certain game – you could put George or Owen at 10 and he’d do exactly what you knew he was going to do for you (that’s where ‘doing you a job’ comes into it).

For a different game you might need a different sort of job done – and for that you might pick a different player.

However, the bottom line is that, when you pick DC you never know what he is going to do, never mind that you wanted him to.

He’ll do something, all right. But it may be ineffective or even win or lose you the game.

Would you really ever want to risk your entire Rugby World Cup campaign to the mind and gifts of Danny Cipriani?

I wouldn’t.


About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts