Sale Sharks’ Cipriani relishes England fly-half battle in European clash with Saracens

Sale Sharks head into the next round of European fixtures on the back of three consecutive league wins as they face last year’s Heineken Cup runners-up Saracens twice in a row.

Danny Cipriani produced a moment of magic in order the seal Sharks’ hat-trick of wins in the Aviva Premiership last weekend with an 18-13 victory away at Newcastle Falcons.

Tomorrow afternoon’s clash at the AJ Bell stadium takes on extra significance for Cipriani as he faces off against rival international fly half Owen Farrell, offering a chance to prove himself to England selectors after being omitted from the autumn internationals squad.

He said: “It’s going to be exciting to play against Owen (Farrell) or Charlie (Hodgson) and a great Saracens side. It’s the type of game you want to make sure you put your hand up and perform in.

“I know Owen through the England camps and you can see the drive and the passion that he has as a player and it’s very admirable. It will be a great challenge at the weekend if we get a chance to go head to head.

“They are a very tough opposition, one of the best teams in the premiership and in Europe so it’s very important for us to make sure we get a result. It’s going to be a great battle at the weekend.”

The former Wasps and Melbourne Rebels 10 has been playing his best rugby since his return to England and is patiently waiting for his opportunities to re-establish himself in the national side.

“You’re playing against some of the best fly halves in the country, if not in the world, coming up against quality opposition is always some you’re going to relish.

Cipriani ended a six-year hiatus with England after making his first appearances since 2008 during this summer’s tour of New Zealand, however he has failed to hold down a place in the national squad ahead of next year’s World Cup.

He said: “I think anyone who wasn’t involved will be disappointed, but the England coaches are very good with their communication in terms of what they want you to improve on and in past teams that hasn’t always been the case.

“They give you clear instruction on where you need to improve and what they want you to work on. All I can do is keep trying to get better each day in training, and get wins for the team.

“I’m not going to stop trying my hardest and doing the best I can to put my hand up to represent my country cos that’s what it is all about.”

The Salford side currently sit at the bottom of Pool One with a solitary point after a succumbing to late defeat against Munster and being thrashed by Clermont.

Director of rugby Steve Diamond will need his team to produce in both home and away matches with Saracens if they are to have any hope of advancing from the group stages of the competition.

Team: Mike Haley, Luke McLean, Mark Jennings, Sammy Tuitupou, Mark Cueto, Danny Cipriani, Chris Cusiter, Eifion Lewis Roberts, Marc Jones, Vadim Cobilas, Jonathan Mills, Andrei Ostrikov, Mark Easter, Magnus Lund, Josh Beaumont

Replacements: Shalva Mamukashvili, Ross Harrison, James Flynn, Viliami Fihaki, Andrew Hughes, Will Cliff, Nick Macleod, Will Addison

Main image courtesy of Charlie via Flickr, with thanks.

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