England recall Cipriani for South Africa tour

Twickenham (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Danny Cipriani's three years in the England wilderness came to an end when he was recalled by coach Eddie Jones on Thursday for next month's tour of South Africa.

The Wasps fly-half, regarded as one of the most talented English players of his generation, has not played for England since the build-up to the 2015 World Cup -- when Stuart Lancaster was the Red Rose coach.

Cipriani's stop-start international career has been interrupted by injuries, while his occasionally colourful off-field lifestyle has not endeared him to several England coaches.

But the 30-year-old has been in fine form for Wasps this season and he now has the chance to add to a tally of 14 Tests caps, the first won back in 2008, after convincing Australian coach Jones to include him in a 34-man squad for a three-Test series against the Springboks in June.

- 'Done what I asked' -

"I've picked him for the first time," said Jones of Cipriani. "I've watched him closely and he's looking good. He deserves his opportunity.

"He's done a few things I've asked him to do."

Hurricanes captain Brad Shields, set to join Wasps, was one of seven uncapped players in Jones's squad despite being midway through the Super Rugby season.

With regular skipper Dylan Hartley still recovering from concussion, Saracens centre Owen Farrell has been appointed England captain for the tour, while Danny Care, James Haskell and Dan Cole have been rested.

But Jones has selected several players who went on last summer's British and Irish Lions tour, including the Saracens quartet of Farrell, Maro Itoje, Mako Vunipola and Billy Vunipola, who is returning after being out with a broken arm.

England head to South Africa following a miserable end to the Six Nations when they lost successive matches to Scotland, France and Grand Slam champions Ireland. England had only lost one previous match under Jones since the former Wallaby and Japan boss took over following England's first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup.

England have yet to win a series in South Africa, with their Test last victory against the Springboks on South African soil coming in Bloemfontein in 2000.

"Our tour to South Africa will be the most exciting challenge for us as a group since 2016," said Jones.

"We have an opportunity to create some history next month and win the Test series, something no England side has done before," added Jones, who was a consultant to head coach Jake White when South Africa won the 2007 World Cup, beating England in the final.

- 'Combative Boks' -

Although South Africa are traditionally one of rugby union's strongest nations, the Springboks suffered a woeful couple of seasons under former coach Allister Coetzee.

There is optimism, however, that new boss Rassie Erasmus can spark a revival ahead of next year's World Cup in Japan.

"We will need to be physically aggressive and tactically smart against the Springboks who we know will be combative and reinvigorated by their new coaching set-up," said Jones.