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Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Friday, 28 August 2009 17:16 UK

Cipriani primed for season start

By Bryn Palmer

Danny Cipriani trains with Wasps in pre-season
Cipriani had the metal plate removed from his ankle last month

New Wasps director of rugby Tony Hanks believes Danny Cipriani is ready to recapture his best form and force his way back into the England reckoning.

Cipriani plays in a friendly in Glasgow on Friday, his first game since having a metal plate removed from his ankle.

"Danny is in a good place," Hanks told BBC Sport. "When you have a piece of metal in your body it is always in the back of your mind but it is out now.

"He is training well and feeling fit. At the moment he is looking good."

Cipriani endured a frustrating season last year after returning from five months out following a fracture dislocation of his right ankle in May 2008.

He was rushed back into the England fold for the autumn Test series but dropped before the end of it after a series of errors.

At the end of last season...Danny played some pretty outstanding rugby

Wasps boss Tony Hanks

The 21-year-old missed out on selection for the Six Nations and then had to be content with a place on the bench for the second-string Saxons in their summer Churchill Cup campaign.

But Hanks believes his club form was already back to something approaching his best last season and expects Cipriani to make further progress with no lingering concerns over his ankle.

"In a couple of games at the end of last season, against Bristol and Gloucester, he played some pretty outstanding rugby," Hanks said.

"It is important that he goes into the new season knowing he has done the work, and he is looking good."

606: DEBATE
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Cipriani, who was left out of Martin Johnson's 32-man elite England player squad (EPS) for the new season, is one of several Wasps aiming for a strong start to the campaign to press their claims for a return to the fold ahead of the November Tests.

New number eight Dan Ward-Smith, like Cipriani a member of the Saxons squad, has twice seen his hopes of a first England cap foiled by pre-Six Nations injuries.

A dislocated kneecap in January 2007 was followed by a broken hand at the beginning of 2008, but Hanks - who succeeded Ian McGeechan at Wasps this summer - believes the former Bristol forward will swiftly return to Test contention.

"Apparently he really impressed at the recent England EPS camp," Hanks said. "He is motivated to improve every day. Every session for him is an opportunity to learn and get better.

We are expecting big things from Tom Varndell

Tony Hanks

"We are really excited about what he is going to bring. To see Dan playing for England in November would be outstanding. Hopefully we can give him that platform and he will be in the mix."

Wing Tom Varndell, who saw his career stagnate at Leicester, is another hoping his move to Wasps will revive his Test ambitions.

"Tom has fitted in really well, he has been a stand-out in pre-season," Hanks added.

"We are expecting big things from him. He has got plenty of competition with Paul Sackey and David Lemi as well."

Wasps will be without new captain Tom Rees when they open their Guinness Premiership campaign against Harlequins next Saturday, 5 September, as part of the Twickenham double-header.

The England flanker will be unavailable until late September as he completes his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery.



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see also
Wilkinson returns to England fold
07 Jul 09 |  English
Johnson defends Cipriani omission
19 May 09 |  English
Cipriani delays op to remove pin
14 May 09 |  London Wasps
Cipriani will be back - Edwards
22 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Hanks replaces McGeechan at Wasps
15 May 09 |  London Wasps
Triple signing boosts Wasps squad
24 Mar 09 |  London Wasps
Cipriani signs new Wasps contract
06 Mar 09 |  London Wasps
Cipriani axed from England team
25 Nov 08 |  English
Cipriani ruled out for six months
19 May 08 |  English
Ward-Smith suffers injury setback
16 Dec 07 |  Bristol
Ward-Smith faces lengthy lay-off
31 Jan 07 |  English


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