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Danny Cipriani back in England contention after call-up to training squad

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Danny Cipriani is in contention for a first England appearance in six years after being included Thursday in a depleted training squad ahead of a non-cap international against the Barbarians and the three-test tour of New Zealand.

Widely touted as English rugby's next big thing after a brilliant test debut against Ireland in the Six Nations in 2008, the flyhalf's international career never kicked on and he drifted out of the England set-up because of injury, off-field issues and concerns about dedication to the sport.

However, the 26-year-old Cipriani has enjoyed his best season in many years in the English Premiership with Sale Sharks, catching the attention of England coach Stuart Lancaster.

"His club have done a fantastic job of making him a more rounded and mature person," said Lancaster, a disciplinarian who has placed higher demands on players in terms of their off-the-field behaviour in his time as coach since 2012.

The preliminary 20-man training group is without players from six leading English clubs — Saracens, Northampton, Leicester, Harlequins, Bath and Wasps — due to their involvement in Premiership semifinal matches and end-of-season European competitions.

Further additionsto thesquad will follow afterthePremiership semifinals, with the final squad will be named on May 26.

Players from the teams who qualify for the Premiership final, which is played on May 31, will not be available for the Barbarians match at Twickenham on June 1 and the first of three tests against the All Blacks, in Auckland on June 7. England flanker Tom Wood, who plays for Northampton, branded the scheduling clash as "ridiculous."

"It splits your loyalties," he said. "The reality is that playing for a Premiership final could do you out of an England cap.

"For some people, that could be their first cap or the difference between getting in the side and cementing your place or not. Those are questions you should never have to ask."

A final between Northampton and Harlequins, for example, would deny Lancaster eight first-choice players for the first test of a series he counts as crucial in his team's development ahead of next year's World Cup.

However, it is this scenario that has helped Cipriani gain a recall, with fellow No. 10s Owen Farrell (Saracens) and George Ford (Bath) not available to Lancaster for this initial training squad.

If Cipriani makes a good impression, he could yet make it into the touring squad for New Zealand as the third option at flyhalf and add to the seven caps he won in 2008.

England's tour of New Zealand includes tests on three consecutive Saturdays as well as a midweek match against the Canterbury-based Crusaders.

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