Comment: New Zealand tour is make or break for Danny Cipriani’s international future

With the first test against the All Blacks looming just over a week away the summer tour could make or break Danny Cipriani’s international future.

Having clawed his way back into the England squad and, thanks to George Ford’s injury, he is in with a real chance of getting the nod from Stuart Lancaster to start at fly half.

And if he does get the starting berth it may well be his final chance to impress the coaches with his more mature approach to the game that he has developed of the course of the season with Sale.

In many ways the opening tests may well be a the perfect opportunity for Cipriani as the shoddy scheduling means that neither side can really see this as a true test of their capabilities.

If he goes out and performs well there will certainly a clamour to see him give further game time, not least from Sir Clive Woodward.

But with Stephen Myler and Owen Farrell flying in for the second test, barring any injuries picked up in the Premiership final this weekend, Cipriani will surely be nudged out of either a spot on the bench or in the starting line-up if he fails to shine.

While Myler, at 29 is three years older than Cipriani, he has a built a reputation on consistency and as a steady guiding hand that that the Sale man doesn’t have.

Cipriani’s open approach has been reined in during the past season but he was still able show flashes of brilliance that alone warranted his inclusion in the squad.

But this is not perhaps enough for Stuart Lancaster as doubt still persists over who will start the first test with Freddie Burns, who hasn’t exactly shone in Gloucester’s poor season, still in contention which does not send a message of complete confidence in either party.

Cipriani will have to put in some outstanding performances to be considered second choice going forward as Lancaster is clearly looking to the current crop of younger players to be central for the future.

Farrell, the incumbent, is unlikely to be displaced given his continued quality performances for Saracens and Ford seems to be favoured as second choice.

The Oldham-born Bath player arguably has more of an eye for a break than Farrell but still needs to develop his game.

Against Sale on a filthy night in March, with Bath attempting for secure a place in the play-offs, Ford missed three kicks from the tee, including a conversion that would have won them the game, and wasted two drop goals attempts.

Perhaps more telling of Ford’s weaknesses was in Bath’s final game of the season where they gave up fourth spot that they had occupied for much of the season with defeat to Harlequins.

Despite a great solo try in the match his game management and control was at times sorely lacking leaving the door open for Quins to steal the win.

Burns also desperately needs to grab any chance he is handed to avoid falling by the way side as his impending move to Welford Road means he will be watching on from the stands next year as Owen Williams acts as Leicester’s pivot.

What Stuart Lancaster would give to have the kind of worries that his New Zealand counterpart Steve Hansen has.

The All Blacks coach has the luxury of three outstanding candidates to choose from: Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade.

It’s a tough task for Cipriani as he has been exiled for so long and enters an environment with which his competitors are more used to.

But if he wants to remain in contention looking ahead to the World Cup next year he needs to depart New Zealand having left his mark.

Main image courtesy of BT Sport via YouTube, with thanks.

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