England head coach Eddie Jones has challenged Danny Cipriani to prove he can be the country's number one fly-half in order to secure what some feel is a long overdue return to international rugby. The 28-year-old has shown excellent form since rejoining Wasps from Sale Sharks during the summer, helping Dai Young's impressive side to the top of the Aviva Premiership table with a run of four consecutive victories over Exeter, Leicester, Bristol and Northampton.
Such impressive displays have not been enough to earn an England berth, however. According to the no-nonsense Jones, Cipriani, who was found guilty of drink driving in June and failed to make Stuart Lancaster's final squad for a torrid 2015 World Cup campaign despite impressing with a second-half cameo in a warm-up loss in France, must demonstrate that he is a better option than established duo Owen Farrell and George Ford to stand a chance of adding to his 14 caps.
"I had a number of difficult conversations yesterday," Jones said after naming his latest 45-man EPS squad and a 37-strong party that will attend a three-day training camp in Brighton between 2-4 October. "Danny knows what he's got to do. Look, he's a talented player but I said it quite clearly to him. At the moment he's not one or two in England in terms of stand-offs.
"We see George and Owen together as one and two. They are 23- and 24-years-old, they are the heart of the England side. They can organise the team, they are tactically smart. So for Cipriani to get into the squad he's got to be able to show he can be number one."
On his potential status as a back-up, the wily Australian added: "I don't see him as a player who comes in the squad as a number three or four player. To me he's not that sort of player, he likes to be the main man. And when he plays well enough to be number one he'll be in the squad."
Jones named a total of seven uncapped players in his training squad, with Cipriani's club teammates Dan Robson, Sam Jones and Nathan Hughes all called up alongside Leicester lock Mike Williams. Sale's Josh Beaumont, former Samoan rugby league international Ben Te'o and Harlequins centre Joe Marchant are also included.
Gloucester number eight Ben Morgan, yet to feature under Jones, is drafted in as a replacement for the injured Jack Clifford and Teimana Harrison deputises for James Haskell. Ollie Devoto also comes in for the unfortunate Manu Tuilagi and Marland Yarde gets the nod in the absence of Jonny May. Alex Lozowski is named in the EPS squad and could be one to watch depending on what happens with regards to Farrell, who is still struggling with an ongoing back injury. Captain Dylan Hartley is expected to return from his own back problem within a couple of weeks, according to Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder.
Jones is set to name his squad for Autumn International fixtures against South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Australia on 26 October. England have enjoyed a swift recovery from World Cup embarrassment under his short reign, winning a Six Nations Grand Slam before inflicting a humiliating series whitewash on the Wallabies down under.