Danny Cipriani has been included in a senior England squad for the first time under Eddie Jones with the Wasps fly-half also being considered at full-back.
Cipriani will travel to South Africa next month as part of a 34-man group three years after winning the last of his 14 caps and a decade since making his most recent Test start.
The 30-year-old’s sparkling form for Wasps prompted Sir Clive Woodward to state it would be an “utter disgrace” if he were to be overlooked by for the series against the Springboks.
"The youngsters have a chance to show they can handle the toughness of a Test match series in South Africa.â— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) May 10, 2018
Eddie gives you the lowdown on his England squad: https://t.co/N9UodseZK5 pic.twitter.com/suNRd2DCD2
Jones has shelved his previous misgivings over Cipriani’s attitude in a team environment and given a chance to stake his claim 16 months out from the World Cup.
“I’ve picked him for the first time. I’ve watched him play closely and he deserves an opportunity,” Jones said.
“He’s done some things I’ve asked him to do in games and I’m happy to give him the opportunity. He can add value to the squad at this stage.
“He has a role to do and that’s to prove he’s the best 10 in the squad, or the best 15. We wouldn’t have picked him if we didn’t think he was capable of doing that.”
Jones had previously stated that Cipriani could only be included in a squad as a first choice fly-half, a scenario which would have been unlikely due to the presence of Owen Farrell and George Ford.
“Life is full of contradictions. Three games ago I was the best thing that ever happened to English rugby and now I am the worst thing that ever happened to English rugby,” Jones said.
More controversial than Cipriani’s return is the decision to pick flanker Brad Shields – one of eight uncapped players among the 34 – despite the Hurricanes captain being midway through the Super Rugby season.
Shields was born and raised in New Zealand but has never been capped by the All Blacks and qualifies for England through his parents. Meanwhile, back row James Haskell is among the players who have been rested.
“Brad is a good, hard-working player who plays for the best team in the southern hemisphere,” Jones said.
“He is a considerable influence for the Hurricanes, a team that has a lot of skill and talent. He’s a hard working, gritty player and a great back up to Chris Robshaw.
“My responsibility is to pick England qualified players. I get a list and I pick the best out of that list. I don’t decide the regulations.”
Farrell is to captain the squad in the absence of Dylan Hartley, who misses the tour because of concussion, and Billy Vunipola has been selected despite his struggle with a hamstring injury.
Jones has strengthened his coaching team for the tour with the addition of Scott Wisemantel, a 48-year-old Australian, as attack consultant.
“Scott is a very good coach who coached with me with the Wallabies and Japan,” Jones said.
“He’s done Super Rugby at Waratahs and coached successfully at Lyon and Montpellier. He has a wealth of experience, great energy and will add a little bit to the tour.”
“I talk to him all the time, we’re constantly in dialogue and whenever he’s available, we’ll use him and he’s available at the moment.”