Danny Cipriani’s three years in the England wilderness came to an end when he was recalled by coach Eddie Jones on Thursday for next month’s tour of South Africa.
The Wasps fly-half, regarded as one of the most talented English players of his generation, has not played for England since he build-up to the 2015 World Cup, when Stuart Lancaster was the Red Rose coach.
Cipriani’s stop-start international career has been interrupted by injuries, while his occasionally colourful off-field lifestyle has not endeared him to several England coaches.
But the 30-year-old has been in fine form for Wasps this season and he now has the chance to add to a tally of 14 Tests caps, the first won back in 2008, after persuading Australian coach Jones to include him in a 34-man squad for a three-Test series against the Springboks in June.
Hurricanes captain Brad Shields, set to join Wasps, was one of seven uncapped players in Jones’s squad despite being midway through the Super Rugby season.
With regular skipper Dylan Hartley still recovering from concussion, Saracens centre Owen Farrell has been appointed England captain for the tour, while the like likes of Danny Care, James Haskell and Dan Cole have been rested.
England head to South Africa on the back of a miserable end to their Six Nations which saw them lose successive matches to Scotland, France and Grand Slam champions Ireland — their worst run under Jone since the former Wallaby and Japan boss took over after their first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup.
While England have won Tests in South Africa, they’ve yet to win a series there.
Indeed they’ve only been successful in 23 percent of their matches against the Springboks in South Africa, with the last win coming in Bloemfontein in 2000.
“Our tour to South Africa will be the most exciting challenge for us as a group since 2016. We have an opportunity to create some history next month and win the Test series, something no England side has done before,” says Jones in a Rugby Football Union statement.
There is optimism, however, that new boss Rassie Erasmus can spark a revival ahead of next year’s World Cup in Japan.
Fullbacks/wings: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Nathan Earle (Saracens), Jonny May (Leicester) Denny Solomona (Sale)
Inside backs: Danny Cipriani (Wasps), Owen Farrell (Saracens, capt), George Ford (Leicester), Alex Lozowski (Saracens), Cameron Redpath (Sale), Dan Robson (Wasps), Henry Slade (Exeter), Ben Spencer (Saracens), Ben Te’o (Worcester), Ben Youngs (Leicester)
Back five: Tom Curry (Sale), Ben Earl(Saracens), Jonny Hill (Exeter), Nick Isiekwe (Saracens), Maro Itoje (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Brad Shields (Hurricanes/Wasps), Sam Simmonds (Exeter), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Jack Willis (Wasps), Mark Wilson (Newcastle)
Front row: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter), Ellis Genge (Leicester), Jamie George (Saracens), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Harry Williams (Exeter)