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Last Updated: Friday, 14 September 2007, 05:32 GMT 06:32 UK
Cipriani ready for toughest test
By Charlie Henderson

Danny Cipriani
I thought I was being professional last year until I joined up with England

Danny Cipriani
Danny Cipriani believes he has what it takes to become an England Test player despite missing out on the World Cup.

And the 19-year-old full-back aims to hit the ground running for Wasps this season after spending a large chunk of the summer training with England.

"It was phenomenal and taught me I can cut it with the best," he told BBC Sport of his time in England's camp.

"I was learning from the best and while a lot of people are physically similar, it's about staying on top mentally."

England coach Brian Ashton described filling the number 15 shirt as a "conundrum" in the build up to the World Cup.

In the final countdown neither Cipriani nor Bath's 21-year-old Nick Abendanon made the cut.

But after just one game in France, Ashton has ditched his ill-conceived plan to turn Mark Cueto into a full-back which leaves the international door tantalisingly ajar for Cipriani in the post-World Cup era.

Ashton had reasoned that the World Cup had come a "little too early" for Cipriani.

"The more closely I looked at the nature of the competition, the more you're looking for players who have got mental strength, have been in the big games before at international level and have come through the big games before at international level," he added.

"That moved sideways one or two of the less experienced players who had been involved - but these players will come again, there is no doubt about it."

15 or 10? I don't know yet. We'll see what happens. I'll have another year or so mixing between the two and after that I'll zone in on one which the coaches and I feel is the best for me
Cipriani on his best position

The hugely-talented Cipriani intends to "come again" as soon as possible.

He only made his debut in the top-flight last November, when he crossed for a try against Bath, and a first start followed in January this year against Worcester, when he also scored.

While many would have seen earning a place on the bench in the summer's home Test to France as a crowning glory to the season, Cipriani was downcast at not getting the nod - and doubly so as he did not come on as a replacement.

But Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan has been impressed by the way Cipriani took the setback and his ultimate omission from the squad.

"Part of the experience is that you must accept the disappointment of not being selected," said the Scot.

"Danny had the experience of completing full-on training with the England squad, which he hadn't done prior to the summer, and that experience will prove useful."

Of that Cipriani is in no doubt.

He constantly works at his game - either alone, with team-mates or with sprint coach Margot Wells - relished the mental challenge of being with England and can feel the benefits going into his first full season in the Guinness Premiership.

606: DEBATE
Charlie Henderson

"As a full-back you've always got to be thinking about being the last line of defence, make sure your basics are right and make the least mistakes possible," he said.

"In the last year I've worked on my pace a lot, that's a real positive for me now, and my kicking from the back has also got better after a lot of work.

"And I've learnt from working with the best players in England.

"I've done my footwork drills with Jason Robinson - the best guy in the world one-on-one. I've done a lot of my kicking with Jonny Wilkinson - the best kicker in the world.

"I've been learning from some of the best in the world in their positions and that can only be good for me.

"I thought I was being professional last year until I joined up with England. Now I've seen how people train, especially Jonny with his phenomenal work ethic.

"I'm not trying to copy that because that's something he does, but there are things I can improve on and want to emulate from others around training and make sure I've got a strict routine.

"I want to keep everything going forward."

GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP 2007/08 - THE OPENING WEEKEND
Saturday 15 September
Bath v Worcester, 14:15
Harlequins v L Irish, 15:30
Wasps v Saracens, 18:00
Sunday 16 September
Bristol v Leicester, 15:00
Leeds v Gloucester, 15:00
Newcastle v Sale, 15:00

Forward to England, and first stop Wasps.

The European champions open their domestic campaign at Twickenham on Saturday against Saracens in the second game of a 'London Double Header' that also features Harlequins and London Irish.

England HQ was the scene of their Heineken Cup success against Leicester at the back of the 2006/07 season, a match club colleague Josh Lewsey, England's World Cup winning full-back, described as a Test in all but name.

And as well as that developing mental strength and those constant improvements to his game, coming through matches like that can only boost the Cipriani CV.

"I've had a lot of big games already this year that have been difficult scenarios," he reflects on five months with Wasps that saw him chop and change between fly-half and full-back.

"Beating Castres away in a hostile environment and coming through it as a team was a good day," he reflects.

"And there was Leinster, Northampton and then of course Leicester in the final."

More will follow this season as Cipriani aims to take that final step to the top and Wasps look to improve on a fifth-placed finish in the league as well as defend that European title.



SEE ALSO
England face crisis at fly-half
11 Sep 07 |  English
Tindall & Hodgson miss World Cup
13 Aug 07 |  English
England 15-21 France
11 Aug 07 |  Rugby Union
England Saxons 17-13 NZ Maori
02 Jun 07 |  Rugby Union
England Saxons 18-3 Scotland A
28 May 07 |  Rugby Union
Leicester 9-25 Wasps
20 May 07 |  Rugby Union
Northampton 13-30 Wasps
22 Apr 07 |  Rugby Union
Wasps 35-13 Leinster
31 Mar 07 |  Rugby Union
Castres 13-16 Wasps
20 Jan 07 |  London Wasps
Wasps 19-14 Worcester
07 Jan 07 |  English
Wasps 47-18 Bath
12 Nov 06 |  English
Cipriani joins England training
02 Oct 06 |  English


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