It didn’t feel like England’s Rugby World Cup preparations could get much worse, after both hooker Dylan Hartley and centre Manu Tuilagi were ruled out of the tournament due to on and off-field indiscipline. Of course, things can always get worse.
Fly-half Danny Cipriani may not be quite as important as the aforementioned due, who would both be automatic starters were they not suspended, but the Sale playmaker’s potential loss following his recent drink-driving arrest is another unwelcome distraction for the hosts.
Cipriani was only just back in the Red Rose fans’ good books after a decent season in the north west, having fluffed his first chance with England five years ago thanks to a hectic social life, which included being snapped on the town repeatedly with former girlfriend Kelly Brook, resulting in a move to Australia.
The 27-year-old had kept his head down under coach Bryan Redpath amid rumours a big-money move to France was in the offing, which would have been the final nail in Cipriani’s England coffin. As is it, he looks to have hammered it home himself.
It’s quite rare for a country to keep all their key players injury free ahead of a World Cup, due to the demands of the Rugby calendar, and England already have a number of men fighting to be fit for September.
Second-row forward Joe Launchbury’s return for the recent 73-12 triumph over the Barbarians was entirely welcome, but props Joe Marler and Alex Corbisiero, number eight Ben Morgan and full-back Mike Brown, all of whom would expect to make Lancaster’s 22, will be lacking game-time before the summer’s over, even if they stay fit.
They may be the hosts, but 4/1 about England lifting the Webb Ellis trophy looks too bad to be true at present, with two of their best XV out and more sure to follow.
Holders New Zealand are the 5/4 favourites for a third triumph. With the likes of Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith and probably Richie McCaw retiring from international rugby after the tournament, they’re an odds-against bet to be on.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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