In the rugby world no position on the rugby field provokes more debate or more column inches than the number ten. In the northern hemisphere, we call it fly half. Our antipodean cousins call it first 5/8. In Wales they sing songs about them and all over the world we talk about our greatest fly halves ever.
England has always struggled with the number ten position. Maybe it is a reflection of the national personality but as a nation the maverick player has never really fitted in. This is has always been the issue about the fly half position. Do you go for a cavalier or a Roundhead? Or do you find another way?
In 2003, England had a true great in Jonny Wilkinson, he was at the peak of his powers a tackling leviathan a kicking genius with a kicking action that even the most ardent non-rugby fan could recognise. He could pull the strings of the players around him but he was not the only conductor in the orchestra. Surrounding Wilkinson giving him giving him options were players such as Mike Catt, Will Greenwood and Mike Tindall. All were experienced players with leadership qualities and experience. In fact if Catt had not been a World Cup winner in 2003 he would have been most famous for being run over by Jonah Lomu in 1995. In front of Wilkinson were Matt Dawson and Lawrence Dallaglio both former England captains. Essentially the men surrounding Wilkinson were born winners confident in the decision making ability of every man around them. This meant Wilkinson could concentrate on doing his job.
Currently England are having a crisis of confidence in the chosen number ten Owen Farrell. He is short of game time and is categorically not the next Jonny Wilkinson - yet. Neither is George Ford. Neither are running the game as England expect. This leads too, two issues the toil of the forwards is being wasted and the pace on the wing is not being used. It is the equivalent of a conductor not being able to get his string section and wind section to work in time. It is neither Ford nor Farrell's fault the back line is woefully short of caps and lacking players capable of taking the pressure off the fly half allied to their inexperience things are not working well.
This brings us on to Danny Cipriani, a brief resume of his career is as follows, talented England player capable of game-changing moments, got celebrity girlfriend, fell into celebrity lifestyle and lost focus. After a period in the wilderness he has returned to prominence as key part in Sale Sharks revival. This experience and maturity may help him get the best out of an England back line with pace to burn. Will Lancaster, the former PE teacher, pick the naughtiest boy in the class? After watching England misfire against New Zealand and South Africa, I wouldn't have a hesitation in trying him.Suggest a correction