Cipriani ‘grateful’ for first England start in 10 years against South Africa

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Danny Cipriani will celebrate the realisation of his dream to return as England’s starting fly-half after ousting George Ford for Saturday’s final Test against South Africa.

Cipriani has been installed as conductor-in-chief for the first time in a decade as he seeks to rescue an international career that to date has been characterised by unfulfilled potential.

The 30-year-old played 13 minutes as a second-half replacement in last Saturday’s defeat in Bloemfontein that surrendered the series 2-0 and has won over England head coach Eddie Jones, who previously held concerns over his attitude in a team environment.

Now he has been given the chance to prove he is worthy of an extended run in the team six years after spending a season at Melbourne Rebels in order to escape the celebrity spotlight that was overshadowing his playing career.

“I went to Australia when was younger because I was going through a tough time and wanted to experience a different culture,” Cipriani said.

“My plan was always to come back and play for England. Anyone who knows me, knows that’s what I’ve always wanted. It’s a privilege to be here. I feel very grateful for the opportunity.”

An outstanding season for Wasps has confirmed Cipriani as England’s most accomplished attacking fly-half and at Newlands he is determined to show he can be relied upon to pull the strings.

“My emotions are that I want to be the calmest guy on the field so that when international pressures come on, people can turn to me and understand that I’m thorough in what I’m doing,” Cipriani said.

“I know that I must execute. That’s what I’ve tried to be consistent with over the last couple of years. Eddie doesn’t want to restrict anyone from being themselves.

“There are certain ways that he wants you to lead the team and you’ve got to do what’s best for the team.”

It is only the third time Ford has been dropped since Jones took over in late 2015 and for the climax to the series in Cape Town he is omitted from the 23 altogether.

“It’s a hard call on George. He’s an important part of our team who does a lot of work behind the scenes,” Jones said.

“I just feel this game is going to revolve a lot around kicking and with Danny at 10 it gives us a left foot kicking option.

“I think it’s going to be a tight game and Danny might be able to take some of those opportunities that we might have missed in previous games.”

Cipriani’s inclusion is one of four changes to the side dispatched by the Springboks 23-12 at Free State Stadium.

Chris Robshaw returns at blindside flanker after Brad Shields was ruled out of the climax to the series because of illness, while Joe Marler starts at loosehead prop and Nathan Hughes at number eight.

Marler and Hughes are present after Mako and Billy Vunipola returned home for their respective family and injury reasons.

“It’s bad luck for Brad, who is just a little crook and won’t make it by kick-off time,” Jones said.

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