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Can Cipriani Cut It? || By: Howard Johnson

April 24, 2020 4 min read

England's wild child wild card Danny Cipriani has signed a three-year deal with
Sale Sharks. Will it lead to an international resurgence or prove to be nothing
more than a costly marquee signing? Rugby Rugby's Howard Johnson
investigates…

Rugby Rugby's Howard Johnson asks whether Danny Cipriani's return to
England can really re-ignite his international career…

So, the 'Bad Boy' of English rugby is coming home. After what might in
understated fashion be called an 'interesting' sojourn with the Melbourne
Rebels, Danny Cipriani has signed a three-year deal with Sale Sharks. The 24
year old will be back in the northern hemisphere for the start of the 2012/13
season hoping to convince everyone that the player who was once baptised as
the heir apparent to Jonny Wilkinson still has the necessary fire in his belly to
represent his country again. According to Sale boss Steve Diamond Cipriani's
“gone really well down there” during his two years playing Super XVs. The
facts don't particularly bear this out. The Rebels are currently lying in 12 th place
in the Super XV table after four games of the new season. They finished 15 th
last time around notching just three wins and 13 losses, while Cipriani made
more headlines for nicking a bottle of vodka from a nightclub and breaking a
club curfew than anything else. Of course Cipriani's individual showings might
well have been tickety boo, but I think it's fair to say that the jury's going to be
most definitely out on the 24 year old until he laces up his boots on a regular
basis up north in Manchester and we see what he's got in his locker.
What's never been in doubt is that Cipriani has natural ability. He last played
for England in 2008 and showed back then that he had it in him to do stuff that
lesser players simply couldn't. What he was clearly lacking, though, was an
ability always to take the right decisions at the right times and not to make
errors that would prove costly. Someone once told me that the best
international players are the ones who make the least mistakes, and while that
might sound a bit reductionist, it's true that you're far more likely to get
punished for the slightest bit of sloppiness on the international stage. Coaches
will soon tire of a player who produces a moment of genius, but who ultimately
loses you the match.

Joining Sale is an interesting career choice for Cipriani, though. Steve Diamond
is clearly looking to put bums on seats in an area that has not traditionally
enjoyed enormous rugby support. He believes that Cipriani has the right 'wow
factor'. “We forget he's a young kid and he's probably became famous for his
celebrity antics,” said Diamond. “That bit doesn't really bother me. He'll be
more famous for what he does on the rugby field. Rugby union is crying out for
a superstar and after Jonny Wilkinson he could be the man.” That's a pretty
bullish statement, given that Cipriani last played for his country three and a
half years ago and was far more famous for his celebrity relationship with the
pneumatic Kelly Brook than his top level rugby exploits.

Can Cipriani become rugby's next superstar? Well he's got Owen Farrell in front
of him right now and shifting the Saracens man from the England Number 10
jersey won't be a simple job if Farrell maintains his from and continues to
improve at his current rate. And you wouldn't have thought that the move to
Manchester would help build Cipriani's profile as much as signing for a
Saracens or a Leicester might have done. You could argue that it didn't harm
Jonny Wilkinson any when he spent season after season in the rugby
netherlands of Newcastle. But Wilko didn't have any interest in the celebrity
side of being a high profile sportsman. Maybe that's exactly why Cipriani has
chosen an unfashionable club, to show the world that he's finally 100% serious
about his rugby and that the impetuosities of his youth are behind him. In
terms of reestablishing himself as a player we can all trust in the new climate
of a more humble England, it may well be a good strategy.

But there's only one theatre of truth that will count for Danny Cipriani in the final analysis – and that's out on the pitch. If he can prove that he's matured as a rugby player that will be by far the best way of showing the England selectors that he's got his head right, that he's determined to make the most of his talents and that
he really is serious about representing his country at the highest level again.
We've all done daft things in our youth, things we wish we hadn't done. As
they say, to err is human and to forgive is divine. So we should all be prepared
to forgive Danny Cipriani his indiscretions, just so long as he proves he's put
childish things aside and has the desire to be a fly half of genuine international
calibre. If he can do that, then it will not only be Sale's gain, but also
England's. And nightclub owners will also be able to sleep easy in their beds
knowing that their vodka stocks won't be in any imminent danger!