South Africa v England 1st Test Betting: Jones must find a way to trust Cipriani

Danny Cipriani
Flair player - but will Eddie Jones trust Danny Cipriani's talent?
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Ralph Ellis fears England's four-match losing streak will become five unless Eddie Jones changes tack over who plays at fly-half...

"South Africa are [1.72] in the Match Odds and if Cipriani isn’t given the chance to orchestrate some sort of attacking flair then it’s hard to see how you could bet against that."

Google the word "Cipriani" and up pops, top of the list thanks to the wonders of advertising, not the mercurial Wasps fly-half but the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, set on an exclusive island five minutes ride by boat from St Mark's Square in Venice.

It sounds amazing. "Transport yourself into a realm of vintage glamour", says the blurb on the hotel's website.

It struck me, though, that you could use the same phrase about Danny Cipriani. In an age when Rugby Union has become a battle of the giants, with man mountain versus man mountain, the 30-year-old remains a flashback to bygone and more beautiful times.

He's had arguably the best season of his career, creating space and time for Wasps players around him, praised week in and week out by fans and pundits alike.

The problem, though, as England prepare for the first Test against South Africa on Saturday, is that Eddie Jones seems to consider him a luxury player in much the same way he'd see the Belmond as a luxury hotel.

Warned about his behaviour

Building up to this tour you always had the sense that Jones didn't want to pick Cipriani. The 30-year-old has been consistently the standout fly-half during the Premiership season, but England's manager ignored him for the Six Nations and seemed almost to sneer at suggestions he deserved another chance.

We all know he has a past of assorted off-the-field problems. Equally we've seen him sort himself out over the recent few years and bring a whole different focus to expressing his talent in matches. He's learned how to handle all the pressure that goes with being the most creative player.

Yet even after naming him in the squad for this tour, Jones couldn't bring himself to be totally supportive. "If he's a bad character there's always a plane back from Johannesburg," he said in the press conference discussing his selection.

And he revealed his misgivings again at the weekend. With 10 Saracens players and five Exeter men absent from his line-up for the Twickenham outing against the Barbarians, Cipriani still started on the bench.

When he did get on he was immediately switched not to his best position but to full-back, where his defensive limitations could be exposed.

Springboks could run away with it

It makes you wonder. If Cipriani in not going to start in his best position at fly-half, then what was the point of taking him on the tour? It's created conspiracy theories that Jones, a stubborn man who seems to like falling out with people, is trying to prove some sort of point.

South Africa are [1.72] in the Match Odds and if Cipriani isn't given the chance to orchestrate some sort of attacking flair then it's hard to see how you could bet against that.

In fact I'd think there would be value in backing the Springboks to win by 13 or more in the Winning Margin market.

All the early success of the Jones era seems to have dissolved, and to arrive at Ellis Park on the back of a four-match losing streak is seriously worrying. Forget that South Africa lost narrowly to Wales in America, that was with very much a 'B' team.

Led by new captain Siya Kolisi they will come with power and pace. What's needed to hit back is a bit of flair and extravagance, sort of Belmond style, if you like. The danger is that Jones is more likely to take a Travelodge approach.

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