Danny Cipriani could be handed England fly-half role for third Test
Cipriani played 13 minutes of the 23-12 second-Test defeat against South Africa as a replacement for George Ford.
Danny Cipriani is in strong contention to start England’s final Test against South Africa as Eddie Jones gives serious consideration to making a change at fly-half.
Cipriani played 13 minutes of the 23-12 defeat in Bloemfontein as a second-half replacement for George Ford, but he is now on the brink of ousting his rival for the role of chief conductor at Newlands on Saturday.
The Gloucester-bound half-back impressed when lining up at 10 in one of the week’s two training sessions, leaving Wednesday afternoon’s full-bore practice run to press home his claims.
If he is selected when Jones names his team on Thursday morning, Cipriani would be making his first start for a decade at a time when England are seeking to avoid a series whitewash by the Springboks.
“Both Danny and George have got great attributes,” said Jones.
“They are both skilful with the ball, they both kick well and they both pass well.
“From both of them I’d like to see a bit more of a running game. We’re just assessing who is going to be the best player for this weekend.”
Cipriani’s presence in South Africa is the first time he has been involved in an England squad under Jones, who previously held doubts over his capacity to be a disruptive influence in a team environment.
Accustomed to being first-choice fly-half, it was also felt that he is ill-suited to the role of supporting Ford and Owen Farrell – to date Jones’ preferred choices in the position – but his application on tour has won over his head coach.
“Danny is back because of his consistency of effort. I’ve just been impressed by his diligence and his desire to be part of the team,” Jones said.
“He’s got fitter, he’s understanding that there’s a role to play in the team, and he can play it.”
Henry Slade, poised to continue at outside centre for the climax to the series, has also been won over by a player many people consider to be England’s finest attacking fly-half.
“You can see by the way he trains and plays that he is an incredibly skilful player,” Slade said.
“He likes to play with the ball and as a backline it’s exciting because you have someone who wants to keep the ball in hand and stress teams and defences with our running game. As a centre that is a really exciting prospect.”
England will make two enforced changes after the Vunipola brothers returned home.
Billy Vunipola re-fractured his arm at Free State Stadium and faces an extended spell on the sidelines, resulting in Nathan Hughes’ promotion to the starting XV at number eight.
Mako left the squad in order to attend the birth of his first child, so Joe Marler will be given the loosehead prop duties.
Meanwhile, England have stated a report that forwards coach Steve Borthwick applied for the previously vacant Ulster job is untrue.