Cipriani contrite but England future depends on Jones's forgiveness

London (AFP) –


England star Danny Cipriani apologised Friday for an incident at a nightclub and is praying it has not ended what has been a redemptive road back to Test rugby.

The mercurial 30-year-old utility back's latest off-the-field episode resulted in a fine for common assault and resisting arrest during a night out on the Channel Island of Jersey where he was at a pre-season training camp with his new club Gloucester.

"I have been in a cell for more than 24 hours thinking about what happened," he told The Times.

Cipriani said the incident was sparked when a bouncer refused to let him take his drink outside the nightclub.

"He then started filming me with a camera attached to his tie. I thought this was intrusive so grabbed the camera. I shouldn't have done it," he said.

"I am very grateful to the magistrate, who said that the incident was minor.

"But I am in no doubt that it was completely unacceptable."

His contrition will, he hopes, carry weight when the ultimate arbiter of his Test career, England head coach Eddie Jones, announces his squad for the November internationals.

Earlier this year, Jones appeared unequivocal about what the consequences for Cipriani would be if he strayed when he told Sky: "If he's on the front page for any other reason (than rugby) he won't be with us."

However, with results on the pitch this year turning against Jones and Cipriani's natural talent shining through in his first England start in a decade in the Test victory over South Africa, the Australian may be loathe to ditch him with the World Cup looming in a year.

- 'You are not employing the pope' -

In the past Cipriani was dropped for an excursion to a nightclub the week of a Six Nations match just after he had broken into the England side and was involved in a collision with a bus after a drinking session with team-mates from his then club, Sale.

As ever, his future has aroused strong opinions on both side of the divide with one of his former great supporters, England's 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward -- who had criticised Jones for not selecting him earlier -- saying "enough is enough".

"If an incident like this occurred during the World Cup next year, it would cost England the tournament," Woodward wrote in his Daily Mail column.

"You have to trust every player on and off the pitch, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

"Can Cipriani be trusted by Eddie and the rest of the England team who are also under scrutiny but remain disciplined in their personal lives and behaviour? I suspect Eddie will now decide that he can't and who could blame him?"

Woodward, though, is a rare voice in calling for the curtain to come down on one of rugby's greatest showmen.

"When you employ a rugby player, you know you are not employing the pope," Sale's director of rugby Steve Diamond, who gave Cipriani a chance when he returned after an unhappy spell in Australia, told the BBC.

"It would be too harsh. England need all the help they can get at the moment and players like him are few and far between."

England's World Cup-winning scrum-half Matt Dawson also begged to differ with Woodward.

"I think Eddie will do his homework here and work closely with Gloucester to find out exactly what went on," said Dawson.

"He will know what went on, make his own decision and I think he will make the right one in keeping Cipriani in the squad."