‘Danny Cipriani must start’ – Will Greenwood picks his England XV to face South Africa in first Test

Will Greenwood says he would pick Danny Cipriani to start at 10 for England against South Africa

Danny Cipriani must be handed the England No 10 shirt against South Africa, says Sky Sports’ Will Greenwood.

Speaking on The Offload, Greenwood was adamant that Cipriani was the man to spearhead England’s attack in the first Test on June 9 as they go in search of a first series victory on South African soil.

Cipriani has not started an international at fly-half since 2008 and not featured for England since 2015 but he has been in outstanding domestic form this season and was nominated for the Premiership Player of the Season honour.

“I’d stick him in at No 10 in the very first Test, he’s on fire at the moment,” said Greenwood. “You can’t leave it until it is 2-0, he has got to start a Test match that absolutely matters in terms of the series.”

Greenwood also believes that Jones should give him the best chance to shine by playing him alongside his Wasps team-mate Dan Robson.

“I’d pair him with his half-back partner at Wasps, Dan Robson, and allow that 9-10 combination that runs the Wasps team so well to play and show their club form in an international game.”

Such a move would leave George Ford and Ben Youngs on the sidelines but Greenwood believes change is necessary after a disappointing Six Nations campaign that saw England finish fifth.

“The two Leicester lads, start them in the second Test, or pick them in the first Test and play Robson with Cipriani in the second, but play Leicester-Leicester or Wasps-Wasps.

“It is much fairer to all four players and both pairings to play them together.

“I think there is something like 12 games until the World Cup, you have got to find out about certain players, clearly on the back of three defeats he can’t keep going with that same team.”

Greenwood also favours another Wasps star for the England No 15 shirt.

“I want Eliot Daly to play at full-back, I want him to have a run. We know about Mike Brown and I think Eliot Daly is an absolute superstar of a rugby player.

“Alongside him, I would have the sheer gas and electricity of Jonny May and someone who just looked so natural on a rugby field, Denny Solomona.

“His ability to understand where the ball will end up, pick holes and find space is so strong, I’d pick him on the right wing.”

Greenwood called for further changes in the England midfield and tipped another rising star to potentially force his way into the mix.

“The one that is lurking in the wings and who I would consider starting in the second or third Test in that midfield is Alex Lozowski.

“I think he is a firecracker of a player and at the moment for both Saracens and England but he just seems to end up with the No 22 on his jersey for the big games.

“If he went to any other Premiership club he walks into the starting XV.”

There are more fresh faces in the forwards mix but Greenwood would rely heavily on some familiar names.

“For the spine of my forwards I would go Saracens. They had a mid-season dip but back to great form now.

“Mako Vunipola with Jamie George in the front row, Maro Itoje in the second row and the have the spine of that forward pack finished off with the Saracens guru and World XV player Billy Vunipola.

However, Greenwood also had a word of caution for Jones.

“If one person needs to be wrapped in cotton wool or protected from injury after having a horrible year it is Billy Vunipola.

“Alongside him I would throw a couple of kids – Jack Willis and Tom Curry whose form deserves that.

“The safer option would be to put Brad Shields with one of these guys or Chris Robshaw and have some experience with the kids.

“The reality for me is that Billy Vunipola can do all the hard yards, you have a massive front five there too.

“Then we throw in the 20, 21-year-olds who are sensational jacklers, super ball carriers and unbelievably tough and I think with those hard grounds in South Africa these lads are to the manor born.”

Rounding out the pack, Greenwood once again opted for a mix of youth and experience.

“In the second row alongside Itoje I want Launchbury, who I would have had at captain were Farrell to be rested.

“Then the last player I haven’t mentioned, Dan Cole, is rested, however I would still have gone with Harry Williams first up, the Exeter tighthead is an absolute monster who runs, tackles, carries and passes – he reminds me of Tadhg Furlong, a tighthead who can do everything.”

Jones has urged his squad to make history in South Africa with a series victory but Greenwood believes that the England boss would ultimately settle for some clear pointers as to the potential make-up of his squad for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

“The media spin will be that we are going to win 3-0,” said Greenwood. “The reality is that he wants to win the series and wouldn’t mind losing one.

“If on the back of it he gets a couple of unlucky bounces and loses one 44-43 but finds out about these five or six players and can either put a massive cross through them or a big tick against their name and not have question marks left about players I think that will be as important as the victories.”

Will Greenwood’s England XV to face South Africa in 1st Test, Johannesburg, June 9: 15 Elliot Daly; 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (c), 11 Jonny May; 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Harry Williams, 4 Joe Launchbury, 5 Maro Itoje, 6 Jack Willis, 7 Tom Curry, 8 Billy Vunipola.

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