Ashton wants Cipriani to be specialist

England boss Brian Ashton is determined to see Wasps prodigy Danny Cipriani avoid the dreaded tag of 'utility player'. [more]

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England boss Brian Ashton is determined to see Wasps prodigy Danny Cipriani avoid the dreaded tag of ‘utility player’.

Cipriani, currently playing fly-half for his club, can also fill the full-back role, suggesting he could prove a versatile member of England’s RBS 6 Nations squad.

But Ashton said: "He played at 15 in the second half of last season for Wasps pretty successfully.

"This season he has played 10 pretty successfully. At this moment in time, I see him as a 10.

"I know he can play 15, but I don’t want to develop him as a utility player. I want to get away from things like that if I can."

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Cipriani’s route to the England number 10 shirt is currently blocked by Jonny Wilkinson, yet it would be no surprise if the 20-year-old was involved at some stage of this season’s 6 Nations tournament.

Cipriani added: "I am completely thrilled to have been selected for the England squad.

"It is an exciting opportunity to be able to learn and gain experience in the international environment, and in my case particularly from Jonny Wilkinson, who I trained with and learned a lot from in my time with the England squad in the preparations for the World Cup.

"I am really looking forward to making the most of the opportunity and stating my case to win my first cap."

Wasps rugby director Ian McGeechan said: "It is pleasing to see promising young players in the England squad, including our own Tom Rees, James Haskell and Danny Cipriani.

"Danny is very much a product of the London Wasps environment and system, which is both challenging and supportive of our younger players.

"Our support and careful management of young players has been illustrated in Danny’s progress.

"Key to his development was introducing him carefully into the senior game and giving him experience at full-back, as well as at 10.

"Since then, he has gone on to gather valuable experience from playing in some very big club games during the last 12 months which he handled well, both physically and mentally, and ultimately that has accelerated his progress as a player."

Ashton has also looked to Leicester back-row prospect Tom Croft – two years older than Cipriani – as a potential 6 Nations performer, with the uncapped contingent increased by Gloucester’s former rugby league wing Lesley Vainikolo and Sale Sharks scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth.

Assessing Croft, Ashton added: "We have talked about the X-factor with Lesley.

"It is some time, if ever, that we have seen a potential back-row/second-row forward eligible for England who can sprint 50 metres to score a try and win a Churchill Cup game against the New Zealand Maori, outpacing their full-back and cover defence (as Croft did last summer).

"Last Sunday (for Leicester against Harlequins) he showed his ability to score in a variety of ways. I think there could be quite a special package there as a player."

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