Why Ford will always trump Cipriani in Eddie's England and where the true problem area lies for the Red Rose
Passes worthy of a spot in the rugby archives and misleading body language to boggle even the most airtight defensive instincts caused many, if not most, rugby fans muttering expletives last Thursday when mercurial Gloucester fly-half Dany Cipriani was excluded from England's Bristol training camp, with England boss Eddie Jones claiming the exclusion to be based on form.
In place of the fan favourite was Leicester Tigers standoff and familiar squad face George Ford, who many will have considered to have been in a poorer vein of form than the aforementioned Cipriani.
So why has Jones opted for Ford over Cipriani? Why does the former always trump the latter in the eyes of the Australian head coach's eyes? The answer lies in an age-grade relationship dating back over a decade and the stark comparisons between the Leicester and Gloucester packs.
The relationship between Ford and Saracens, England and Lions star Owen Farrell can be traced back to the ages of 16 and 15 respectively when the duo began their journey as a pivot pairing.
With ten plus years of reading each other's tells and perfecting timings, filling the spare minutes between training with tactical and technical chat - both being rugby obsessives - and the endless learnings together underneath multiple international coaches from u16s to senior level, the pair have forged the kind of connection most coaches spend the vast majority of their careers nurturing.
This is a relationship that can profit astonishing results within a team, results that would outweigh the occasional skill Cipriani can pull out of a hat where Ford cannot. This is the first part of our equation..
The next is the rewards Cipriani is currently reaping whilst playing behind a forward pack on the rise under former Springbok lock turned coach Johan Ackermann.
The former Lions boss has formed a unit of physical specimens that possess a level of rugby intellect and abrasiveness that is the envy of the majority of his Premiership peers.
Cipriani's playmaking attributes are placed on a pedestal when working alongside - or more aptly behind - the likes of Ruan Ackermann, Josh Hohneck, Fraser Balmain, Ed Slater, Jake Polledri and Lewis Ludlow.
When compared with the Leicester pack, the men up front for the Cherry and Whites are a distinctly superior unit when it comes to pairing attacking fly-halves.
Prevailing handling skills, finer running lines and absolute clarity in Ackermann's game plan stand the Gloucester eight - who are relatively interchangeable within the wider squad - head and shoulders above Leicester's pack, who are not locating gaps and weak shoulders to the same extent of Cipriani's compatriots.
There is also the issue of Leicester's revolving door of coaches, hampering any chance of true stability comparable to Ackermann's philosophy.
In essence, the difference between the form and capabilities of Ford and Cipriani are far slimmer than first sight would suggest.
In addition to the Ford-Farrell relationship - that can be described as near symbiotic at times - Ford will always trump Cipriani under Eddie Jones' watch.