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Stuart Lancaster tells Danny Cipriani he won"t go straight back into the England team

You won't fly back in, Dan: Lancaster's England warning for Cipriani

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UPDATED:

01:39 GMT, 21 March 2012

Stuart Lancaster welcomed Danny Cipriani’s decision to return to English rugby in an attempt to re-ignite his Test career, but warned he has plenty of ground to make up in an increasingly competitive position.

The 24-year-old former Wasps fly-half’s summer move from Melbourne Rebels to Sale was confirmed in a statement from the Cheshire club which revealed he has signed a three-year deal.

His decision to pitch himself back into the Aviva Premiership, after a two-year stint in Australia, is a clear indication that Cipriani wants to play for England again, and has set his sights on regaining the national No 10 shirt in time for the home World Cup in 2015.

Coming home: Cipriani has signed for Sale Sharks

Coming home: Cipriani has signed for Sale Sharks

Biding his time: Lancaster has warned Cipriani he will have to work his way up the pecking order

Biding his time: Lancaster has warned Cipriani he will have to work his way up the pecking order

Lancaster, the interim head coach who is hoping to remain in charge of England in the long term following a successful RBS Six Nations campaign, is pleased that another pedigree playmaker will be available for selection.

However, he emphasised that Cipriani must prove that he has made strides in terms of on-field performance and general conduct.

Cipriani was firmly out of favour with the Martin Johnson regime and Lancaster, who coached him for the Saxons, will need to be convinced he can be trusted.

Asked if the necessary level of trust takes time to be re- established, Lancaster said: ‘It does. Equally, my relationship with Danny has always been good. I’ve probably coached him more than anyone else in the England set-up.

I had a good chat with him in December when he came over.

‘I know Danny well and I wanted examples of how he felt his game was improving and how he felt he was developing off the field and in his contribution to team dynamics. He gave me loads of examples on how he was working in that area.

Chris Foy's exclusive

‘He’s got to come back and play his way into the Saxons squad, then into the seniors. 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.

‘If you get the environment right, the players tend to buy it. There were people questioning one or two of the players who went to the World Cup, who are still in the England side, but their behaviour has been exemplary. So it’s about setting the right environment.

Warning: England interim head coach Stuart Lancaster warned Cipriani he won't walk back into the international set-up

Warning: England interim head coach Stuart Lancaster warned Cipriani he won't walk back into the international set-up

‘Clearly we want all our best players playing in England.

‘Danny’s decision to come back to Sale is great, because he can now put his hat back into the (England) ring. But the reality is he’s come back into a very competitive position.’

The rapid emergence of Owen Farrell
at fly-half during the Six Nations enhanced the range of options for
Lancaster — or Nick Mallett if he is appointed head coach by the RFU.

‘We’ve got Owen, who obviously did
extremely well in the Six Nations, Charlie (Hodgson), who but for a
finger injury would have played against Wales, and Toby (Flood) who is
the most capped player in our squad,’ said Lancaster.

‘With those three, and the likes of
George Ford, Tom Heathcote, Henry Slade and Rory Clegg and one or two
others, there’s a lot of talent.

Competition: Owen Farrell has made the fly-half position his own during the Six Nations

Competition: Owen Farrell has made the fly-half position his own during the Six Nations

Troubled past: Cipriani has dominated the headlines for the wrong reasons in recent years

Troubled past: Cipriani has dominated the headlines for the wrong reasons in recent years

‘Typically, what happens with players is they spend a lot of time looking ahead to the player they’re chasing, who’s ahead of them in the pecking order and tends to be older. What they often don’t see is the player who’s coming up from behind.’

While Farrell, 20, has just burst on to the Test scene, Ford, 19, is coming to the fore as a creative presence at Leicester.

Lancaster believes the teenage Tiger is set for higher recognition, adding: ‘It’s great that he’s been given the chance by Leicester and he’s taken it. You don’t become IRB Young Player of the Year if you haven’t got talent.
‘He’s still a young player, two years younger than Owen. There’s still a lot of physical maturing to do, but he’s got great talent.’

For Sale, the signing of Cipriani is another step towards becoming a real force. Chief executive Steve Diamond said: ‘Quality signings such as Danny Cipriani and Richie Gray are a massive statement of intent from the Sharks. We aim to become a super Northern club.’

Lancaster confirmed yesterday that England will play two mid-week matches — prior to the second and third Tests — on their summer tour of South Africa.

Early indications are that the games will take place in Kimberley and Bloemfontein.

Forwards coach Graham Rowntree wants Lancaster to stay in charge and for the RFU to recruit Andy Farrell, his other lieutenant, from Saracens on a permanent basis.

‘Stuart has dragged us out of the gutter,’ said Rowntree. ‘We failed in New Zealand. That was only weeks ago but we have come light years in that time. I would love everything to remain as it is.’