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England wait on Cipriani probe

Published 02/06/2015

Danny Cipriani was arrested over the incident in Chelsea, west London
Danny Cipriani was arrested over the incident in Chelsea, west London

England must conduct their preparations for the World Cup burdened by the uncertainty surrounding Danny Cipriani after the Sale fly-half was arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

Cipriani was unhurt in a collision between his Mercedes and a Toyota in the Chelsea area of west London at 5.15am on Monday morning, just hours after he had produced a man of the match display against the Barbarians at Twickenham.

The 27-year-old was given a breath test and taken to a west London police station before being released on bail. Under the terms of his bail, he must return at an unspecified date in early August when he will either be charged, bailed further or released with no action taken.

England are waiting for the outcome of the police investigation before deciding what action - if any - should be taken.

"We are aware of the matter concerning Danny Cipriani. However, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time until all the facts are known," a spokesperson for the Rugby Football Union said.

Both England and Cipriani are now stuck in limbo, sweating on the result of the police enquiry into the incident as head coach Stuart Lancaster confronts yet another disciplinary headache.

England are still three weeks away from beginning their summer training camp, but have already been forced to remove established internationals Dylan Hartley and Manu Tuilagi from their World Cup plans on disciplinary grounds.

Hartley was ejected from the initial 50-man squad for head-butting rival hooker Jamie George on club duty while Manu Tuilagi was punished following his conviction for attacking two female police officers and a taxi driver.

Now England and Cipriani face an anxious and lengthy wait to see if there will be another high-profile World Cup casualty and the matter is sure to cast a cloud over tournament preparations, which include a two-week spell at high altitude in Denver.

If Cipriani is found to have transgressed, Lancaster will be compelled to act decisively yet again to honour his hard-line stance on disciplinary issues.

Speaking to the media after finishing with an outstanding 33-point haul in Sunday's 73-12 victory over the Barbarians, Cipriani insisted the England management had learnt to trust him once more having rebuilt a reputation tarnished by repeated misdemeanours and a celebrity lifestyle.

Only last week, Cipriani described his inclusion in the World Cup training squad as a "dream" and outlined the desire to become a coach - "I want to be a role model and that person who helps develop people".

The former Wasps and Melbourne Rebels playmaker also backed Lancaster's handling of Tuilagi's assault, unaware that in the coming weeks his hopes of appearing at England 2015 could be determined on the same criteria, even if the nature of the misdemeanour differs.

"Manu understands what he did and Stuart Lancaster handled it in the best way he could. It will be sad that Manu won't be there but the rules have been set. And that's how it is," he told Press Association Sport.

Lancaster can at least take some refuge amid the maelstrom of disciplinary lapses in the knowledge that Cipriani, Hartley and Tuilagi are repeat offenders who also courted controversy long before he was appointed head coach in 2012.

But their ongoing inability to avoid making headlines that reflect poorly on England calls into question the true impact of the universally-lauded cultural revolution he has overseen in response to the unsavoury scenes witnessed at the 2011 World Cup.

In a sign of the perceived dysfunction within the Red Rose squad, one leading bookmaker offered odds on the next player to suffer the consequences of ill-discipline. Behind 4/11 favourite Cipriani is scrum-half Danny Care and fly-half Owen Farrell.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police revealed that Cipriani was given a breath test and taken to a west London police station before being released on bail.

The spokeswoman said: "Police were called at approximately 5.15am on Monday, 1 June to reports of two cars in collision in Imperial Road, SW6.

"No reports of any injuries. The cars involved were a silver Toyota Prius and a black Mercedes C63. The driver of the Mercedes, a 27-year-old man, was arrested on suspicion of drink driving.

"He was taken to a west London police station where he was later released on police bail. Return date to be confirmed.''

Sale have said they will not be commenting on the incident. In 2013 Cipriani suffered concussion after being hit by a bus while on a night out in Leeds with Sale team-mates.

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