Danny Cipriani’s audacious and brilliant counter attack over the weekend was a sublime example of a lightning intuitive response to a sudden opportunity arising in a game of rugby and a convincing display of what is required in the England backs for them to realise their potential.
So why is Cips still sidelined by Lancaster?
The answer is nothing to do with selection per se but everything to do with a personality clash between opposites: Danny the intuitive one and Stuart the planner, text book examples of types who don’t get on.
We’ve all come across people we loathe on sight where the dislike is reciprocated. It’s an accident of life – oil and water don’t mix – and nothing to be ashamed of. But what is not acceptable is when a professional acts out his prejudice, pretending otherwise, in a charade to fool us all.
Stuart is a controlling personality and very stubborn – his folded arms body language tells you he’s defensive and unreceptive to ideas from people he perceives as strong or manipulative. Every time Sir Clive mentions Cips for fly half you can almost feel Stuart’s mind closing shut.
Unfortunately, England rugby playing styles are polarised around the free-flowing, inspirational, intuitive, quick response Quade Cooper – Danny Cipriani attack-minded approach on the one hand and a Playstation, Painting-by-Numbers, defensive approach of ‘package’ planner Lancaster on the other.
It’s a full-bodied ideological struggle, personified by these two people, and unless resolved in some way will lead to needless tragedy: a wrecked international rugby career for Cips, a flop for Stuart and failure for England at the World Cup.
Normally when you’ve two clashing personalities you just separate them and give them different flight-paths. It never pays to try and resolve the conflict. In the Cips-Lancaster case, the powers-that-be should try a change in coaches. Just arrange for Cips and Lancaster to have more space in training. It might be the answer.