Danny Cipriani has replaced Jonny Wilkinson as England’s flyhalf for the Poms’ final Six Nations clash against Ireland.
Despite surpassing Neil Jenkins’s points tally to become the most prolific player of all time, the 15-9 loss to Scotland last Saturday has resulted in his benching for the nothing game in London.
England coach Brian Ashton has opted to give the 20-year-old Cipriani a run in Wilkinson’s stead. The 2003 World Cup-winner has had a forgettable Six Nations campaign, and it seems Ashton has finally lost faith based on former glories.
Ashton, however, has said Wilkinson will still play his part.
“This might seem bizarre but I don’t consider him dropped because he is on the bench and still an integral part of our squad,” Ashton told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“He is covering 10 and 12 and could come on the first five minutes and win us the game. I have got a tremendous amount of confidence in his ability to bounce back and show himself to be a very confident international player again.”
Cipriani’s opportunity against Ireland will not spell the end for Wilkinson according to Ashton.
“Here you’ve got a guy who has scored more points than anyone else in international rugby, and he is still going to be a valuable member of the squad going forward,” he said.
Whether Wilkinson has been demoted to the role of Cipriani’s mentor is unclear, but if the Wasps pivot has a blinder this weekend it will be difficult for Ashton to drop him in subsequent Tests. England have two Tests coming up against the All Blacks.
“He is pretty quick on his feet and hopefully we will see him now at long last out on the field in a starting XV.
“He has a vast range of skills and hopefully he will have good authority in terms of his decision-making and his work without the ball. He is going to have to defend as well as attack.”
England – 15-Iain Balshaw,14-Paul Sackey, 13-Jamie Noon, 12-Toby Flood, 11-Lesley Vainikolo, 10-Danny Cipriani, 9-Richard Wigglesworth; 8-Nick Easter, 7-Michael Lipman, 6-Tom Croft, 5-Steve Borthwick, 4-Simon Shaw, 3-Phil Vickery (c), 2-Lee Mears, 1-Andrew Sheridan. Reserves: 16-George Chuter, 17-Matt Stevens, 18-Ben Kay, 19-James Haskell, 20-Paul Hodgson, 21-Mathew Tait, 22-Jonny Wilkinson.