England fly-half Danny Cipriani has admitted it was ‘an honour’ to start for his country in the midweek tour match against Crusaders in New Zealand.
The Sale Sharks No.10 made an appearance off the bench in the opening test match against the All Blacks, winning and then kicking a penalty that tied the game before the hosts won it late.
After missing out on the second test in Hamilton, Cipriani was given another chance to impress ahead of Stephen Myler, and the 26-year-old certainly took the opportunity given to him by head coach Stuart Lancaster.
GiveMeSport spoke to the former Wasps-man in the immediate aftermath of the 38-7 victory, and he was quick to pay tribute to a number of people who have helped him return to the international stage over the past couple of years.
A great honour
“It was an honour to pull on the England jersey once again. I know it's been a journey to get there and I've learned a lot along the way. It was great to run out with the boys today,” he said over the phone from Christchurch.
"The whole squad has become a tight group and the culture that is building is great to be a part of for this tour. I just have to say thank you for all the support I’ve received.
“I think this is a great time to say a special thanks to my mum, Margot Wells, Blackie (Steve Black), Olly Ward and James Williamson. The list could go on.
"Everyone needs support at times and I believe I've found a great group. Once again though, to wear the red rose in any game is the proudest moment in my career.”
Cipriani burst onto the scene as a teenager at Wasps, and would earn his first cap for England in 2008 under former head coach Brian Ashton.
Injuries hampered the versatile back’s progress however, and he spent two seasons in Australia with the Melbourne Rebels before returning ‘home’ with the Sale Sharks.
After an impressive 18 months at the AJ Bell stadium - where the Sharks went from relegation contenders to European Champions Cup qualifiers - Cipriani was rewarded with a call-up to Lancaster’s touring party this summer.
And, after creating the first try and kicking three conversions in this latest outing, the signs suggest that Cipriani could add to his eight test match caps earned to-date.
With Owen Farrell out of the third test against New Zealand through injury, it could be as soon as Saturday for a player who has turned things around in his career and is now a legitimate contender for next year’s home World Cup.