The Quickie

A bite-sized look at this week's news…

Background to Jonny Wilkinson and Danny Cipriani

Posted by elinord on October 21, 2008

The Number 10 Shirt

The two England fly halves have revealed themselves as great sporting characters in fame and fortune. Now, since the prolonged injury of Wilkinson and swift recovery of Cipriani, a team change has emerged, ahead of the forthcoming autumn internationals, starting with the Pacific Islands on Saturday, 8th November.

Jonny Wilkinson:

Twelve weeks ago he suffered a terrible knee injury, where his knee cap was dislocated during his club, Newcastle Falcon’s 39-23 loss to Gloucester. It was his fourth game back after a six month recovery from a shoulder injury, which has just added to his never-ending tale of woe for the past five years;

* December 2003 A month after the World cup win, he damages his shoulder and is ruled out of the 2004 Six Nations.
* October 2004 Misses the autumn Tests with a haematoma after being named England captain.
* January 2005 Knee ligament damage costs him another Six nations campaign.
* July 2005 After returning in May to make the Lions tour to New Zealand, he injures his shoulder in the second Test.
* September 2005 An appendix operation, followed by groin trouble and a torn muscle, prevent him from returning to action until late in the 2005-06 season.
* September 2006 Misses autumn internationals with a knee injury.
* March 2007 After returning to England duty in the Six Nations he misses the last two games of the tournament with cramp.
* September 2007, Misses the first two games of the World Cup in France after a training injury.
* May 2008 More shoulder surgery, therefore misses England’s two-Test tour to New Zealand.
* September 2008, Dislocates knee and is almost certain to miss the 2009 Six Nations.

All these set backs to his general fitness and health have contributed to his obsessive commitment to preparation which, in the past, made him anxious before a match and drained the fun of the game from him. His reformed character, where he claims he can handle his current injury, as opposed to his old attitude of  “What about me? Danny has come in, what about me?”

The lack of competition that Cipriani poses for a relaxed Wilkinson shows, as he explains the focus he now has on getting back on the field “I was loving my rugby, I got an injury and I need to recover to get back to play more rugby.”

Others have urged Wilkinson to not change his confrontational style of play, despite his latest serious injury, including Steve Bates director of rugby at Newcastle “It wasn’t from a tackle, it was a run-of-the-mill situation”. This enforces Wilkinson’s view that his career is not at risk from the injury, but a set back for him and his team.

Danny Cipriani:

His increasing life under the spotlight has meant the young London Wasps fly half has had the added pressure to perform, not only in his game, but for the paparazzi. Although his rugby career has only just begun, his name is synonymous with glamorous, tabloid women and frequenting London haunts like any Premiership footballer. This has posed a problem for some of his team-mates as his media adviser,  the former editor of The Sun, Stuart Higgins articulates “There is interest in him, but we are trying to do that in a relevant manner, as a committed rugby player, and not as a personality who appears on the front cover of Heat or other glossy magazines.”

His early rugby successes and challenges came at the age of 17;

* Played fly-half for the U19 England side in the U19 world cup, but was unable to complete the tournament due to a head injury.
* Played in the London Wasps U21 and ‘A’ sides but in 2007 he became a more regular first team player.
* He just missed out on selection for the 2007 Rugby World Cup for England after spending the summer in their training camp.

* He was called up to the England squad for the 2008 Six Nations Championship. Many experts were calling for Cipriani to be picked at full-back to ease him into the international arena, a position he played successfully with London Wasps upon breaking into the first team. He had already been selected for the England Saxons and the training squad for the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
* His starting debut for England was due to be realised when he was picked at full-back for the game against Scotland on 8 March 2008. But axed from the squad two days before due to “inappropriate behaviour”, believed to relate to a late night visit to a London nightclub.
* He started against Ireland on 15th March 2008, which England won 33-10, replacing Jonny Wilkinson at fly-half.
* Named in the England Saxons squad on July 1st 2008 as part of his rehabilitation for the coming season.
* Return to the London Wasps 1st XV in a Premiership match against Bath on October 1st 2008. His recovery has been described as remarkable, given the severity of the injury, and due to the fact that his return is 6 weeks to 2 months ahead of schedule.

So, Cipriani’s now infamous incident involving Josh Lewsey has come as no surprise to onlookers and team-mates alike.

Old players have laughed about the tussle, where Lewsey floored Cipriani after being baited about missing a tackle, Stuart Barnes reports that they say there’s “nothing to it, it happened in my day, in fact it happened all the time.”  Obviously, a few bashing come with the territory, and rugby being a tough, contact sport attracts macho fights, even amongst team-mates.

Therefore, the hype he has attracted, possibly because he is aesthetically pleasing, makes Cipriani a key member of the England Saxons.

Elinor D. Davies (elinor.d.davies@my.westminster.ac.uk)

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