England’s interim coach Stuart Lancaster warned Danny Cipriani his attitude will have to be right if he wants to break back into the national team.
Cipriani will join Sale Sharks on a three-year deal in the summer with the stated intention of reclaiming the England fly-half jersey for the 2015 World Cup.
The 24-year-old won the last of his seven caps in the autumn of 2008 before falling out of favour with Martin Johnson’s England regime.
Cipriani did not endear himself to Lancaster after being dropped to the second-string Saxons squad and he has been in disciplinary trouble for off-field incidents during his stint with the Melbourne Rebels.
Lancaster has a list of around nine England fly-half candidates for the 2015 World Cup, including Owen Farrell and George Ford, and he would have no qualms about casting Cipriani aside.
“It’s great he’s come back to England, he has put his front foot forwards,” said Lancaster.
“I don’t think Danny is any different to any young players who want to play for England.
“He will come back and have to do what every other player will have to do and that is play well for his club, try and get himself into the Saxons and then into the senior squad.
“If he does do that then it is about buying into the culture.
“If people don’t buy into it – it doesn’t matter whether it’s Danny or anyone else – there are plenty of players on the list.”
Lancaster’s success in rebuilding the England team has all been founded on creating a new and positive culture within the squad following the World Cup debacle.
Danny Care and Delon Armitage were both axed from England’s elite squad for off-field disciplinary issues and Cipriani has not been far from controversy during his stint with the Rebels.
Cipriani, who said he initially struggled to adapt to life away from England, was fined following a nightclub incident and he was then banned for a month last season after breaking a team curfew.
Sale chief executive Steve Diamond, who brought another controversial character in Welshman Andy Powell to the club, is confident he can get the best from Cipriani.
“There are two ways of looking at it,” said Diamond. “From a chief executive’s point of view if you walk into any city centre bar and ask a gaggle of girls, they will all know who Danny Cipriani is. So that’s bums on seats.
“From a rugby point of view, people talk about Danny being uncontrollable, but that’s nonsense. He’s a young lad who has gone out on some nights out.
“He’s not a drinker, he’s a young, good-looking lad. He’s in that celebrity world and that’s what modern sport is all about. And if that needs managing then I don’t mind being his partner.”
Farrell was one of England’s Six Nations success stories and he is the incumbent fly-half but Lancaster is also monitoring the progress of younger players like Ford and Tom Heathcote.
Lancaster met Cipriani when he was in London to play for the Barbarians in December and was encouraged by what the former Wasps fly-half had to say.
“I wanted examples of how he felt his game was improving and how he felt he was developing off the field and his contribution to team dynamics,” said Lancaster.
“He gave me loads of examples on how he felt he was working in that area.”
Lancaster will use his interview for the England head coach’s job to press the Rugby Football Union to develop a new centre of excellence.
Lancaster’s vision would be for the RFU to build a training base for the senior England team that would also provide indoor and outdoor facilities for age grade national squads.
France have a similar set-up at Marcoussis and the Football Association are pressing ahead with their St George’s Park centre of excellence in Burton-upon-Trent.
“Long-term, I do think England need a national centre of excellence, without a doubt. It would allow you to deliver high performance,” said Lancaster, whose day job is to run elite player development in England.
“Within the professional rugby department, it has never been put to one side or put in the bin, it has always been there on the back-burner.
“Now, it is definitely moving to the front of everyone’s minds, about what needs to come next.
“I think it is important for whoever is getting interviewed to talk about the long-term plans both on and off the field.
“I would need to speak to the new chief executive (Ian Ritchie) to see what his mindset would be on the subject because it is not a decision for me in my role at the moment.
“From my understanding, there is a motivation to move it forward – but I couldn’t say any more than that at this stage, because there would be rather a lot of money involved, I imagine.”
England base themselves in Test weeks at Pennyhill Park, a spa hotel in Bagshot, Surrey, which has its own gym and rugby pitch.
Lancaster, who took England to training camps in Leeds and Loughborough, does not buy into the theory that players are too pampered there but he does believe England need their own dedicated training centre.