Cipriani: “I want to be the first choice 10 at the next World Cup”

Now 24 years of age, little seems different about Danny Cipriani than when he left these shores two years ago to join the Melbourne Rebels. The same scruffy facial hair and dark eyes remain on the exterior of the man who according to Stuart Barnes, is one of the greatest talents that English rugby has ever seen.

Cipriani is back on home shores to play for the Barbarians against Australia this weekend, his first run-out at Twickenham since his starring role during England’s defeat of Ireland in the 2009 Six Nations. The week before, his potential debut against Scotland at full back had been scrapped following allegations of him being out in a nightclub just two days before his first cap. In a similar fashion, Cipriani’s early days in Melbourne with his current club were marred by stealing a bottle of vodka from behind a bar following a defeat in the opening round of last year’s Super Rugby competition, along with being dropped from his side’s tour of South Africa.

As far as Cipriani is concerned, the past, is just that. “I was happy with the playing side last season, but the negative stuff off the field seemed to be the main stories being reported back here. It’s about understanding your responsibilities as a professional athlete, which is something you forget when you’re out with your mates, but I’ve learned from it and moved on.”

Looking forward, Cipriani’s immediate focus is running out for the Barbarians against Australia this Saturday at Twickenham. In a star-studded lineup alongside four World Cup winners from last month, the former Wasp is relishing the chance to play at Twickenham for the first time since the Autumn Internationals of 2009, “It’s one of the best stadiums in the world, and one of my favourites. With the squad that’s been put together, and working with Graham Henry and Steve Hansen, I feel very fortunate to be a part of this Barbarians squad.”

Returning to Twickenham inevitably brings up the issue of Cipriani’s relationship with the English national side, from which it appeared he was forced into exile two years ago after falling out with management. “I watched the World Cup as a fan. Every time I see England play it makes me ever more keen to pull on that shirt. It really is my dream and my goal to play for England, that’s never changed. I feel like the last 12 months have past me by with playing Test rugby, not being involved in the squad, and that gives me extra focus and hunger to want to be selected. I don’t want to give anyone an excuse not to select me anymore.”

Now that Martin Johnson has gone, with the majority of his coaching staff set to follow him out the door in the coming weeks, Cipriani understands that there will be new management to impress. “With the last regime, I gave the coaches too much doubt about me as a fly-half, mainly perhaps due to the fact that I was down in Australia. I don’t want coaches to have any ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ about me as a fly-half. If I can improve all of the areas of my game, so that I’m the best 10 out there, then my part is done and it’s down to the coaches.”

The Rebels fly-half revealed that contractually he is allowed to be released for the Six Nations next year if selected, but immediately that wasn’t at the forefront of his mind. “I honestly haven’t thought about being selected, I’ve just focused on the things that I can control; my diet, my fitness, my defence are all variables that I’ve worked hard on with the coaches at the Rebels. Logistically it would be easier if I was based in the UK, but as you know I don’t tend to do things the easy way. I just have to keep putting my hand up wherever I am in the world.”

The fact is, Cipriani is actually over 10,500 miles away from the RFU. For this reason, whilst contact from Twickenham initially was consistent, the phone stopped ringing. “I had a bit of contact with Brian Smith early on, but that was it. The main people who I stayed in touch with were Shaun Edwards and Brian Ashton, who are the two people in my life who regardless of where I am have always been consistent and been there to support me.”

Looking back on the move, he has no regrets whatsoever. “The whole experience to get away from home, from England, and out of my comfort zone, has made me a better player. I had some issues off the field but I’ve accepted that and moved on. The move was purely for rugby reasons. Every coaching set-up I’ve been involved with I’ve always put in everything I’ve got and had no issues. There was no negative reason for moving to Super Rugby, it was purely to experience a different environment to make me a better player.”

“My game has definitely come on a lot, and working with John Muggleton [Rebels assistant coach] has helped my defence massively. I had 8 weeks back in England and then headed back out to Melbourne, for honestly the best pre-season I’ve ever had with any team. That bodes well for the coming season, and I’m really enjoying it down there. I think the main point to come out of the World Cup is that to be the best, it’s all about decision-making under pressure. Playing on the hard ground in the Super 15, you’re working with players who are brilliant at that, such as James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale at the Rebels, which in turn helps your development.”

His contract with the Rebels is set to run out at the end of this season. Right now, whether Danny stays in Super Rugby is another matter. Settled in Melbourne in an exciting young side, would one more season damage his chances of selection for 2015, or is now the time to come home? “It’s still early doors regarding what I do at the end of next season. Super 15 in my eyes is the best league in the world, and I’ve played in the Premiership and Heineken Cup so I feel I can say that with some confidence. I’m playing with some great players and friends and am excited about the upcoming season.”

Whatever he decides, Cipriani knows one thing for certain. Watching England play and not pulling on that jersey has hurt him, whatever people may think of his dedication to his country. “My long-term goal is to be involved in the squad come the Rugby World Cup in 2015, and to be the first-choice number 10 in that squad.” Talent cannot be bought or ignored at international level. With Cipriani, his return to the national side is not about ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’, but when.

by Ben Coles

31 thoughts on “Cipriani: “I want to be the first choice 10 at the next World Cup”

  1. The Ireland match was in 2008 and Cipriani went on to play in that year’s AIs.

    Cips is a complete tw@t but for once Barnes is right he is so talented. I think his rehab/ come back and exile was so badly managed. Its not too late for him but he doesn’t seem to have progressed much in his first year in aus, both in rugby or maturity.

  2. I can see the argument for getting him into the England setup for the Six Nations. It’s the start of ‘four more years boys’ and the next year should be about identifying talent and bringing it through. Defence is important, but it can be coached to an extent, and he’ll mature under the right coach and management.

    I’m looking forward to this Baabaas game more than usual, and it will be interesting to see how Cips goes in front of the home crowd and the future England manager, whoever that may be.

  3. English rugby is so prescriptive these days that there seems to be no place for mavericks. The preference is for people who can shift vast amounts in the gym and toe the line, possibly because they haven’t got the ability and rugby brain to go ‘off script’. If England can’t get the best out of Cipriani, while he will have to take some portion of the blame for some poor decisions on and off the field, it will be a sad reflection on English rugby. Writing off someone as talented as he clearly is as ‘too much trouble’ is just an easy out and benefits nobody.

    By all accounts James O’Connor, Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale have had their moments off the field but the Aussie coaches go out of their way to get them on the field and give them the freedom to play.

    Having said that, the way the game is going at the moment, for better or for worse, the first function of the 10 is game management and Cipriani has never been good at that. His first instinct is always to see what he can do rather than what is best for the team. If he cannot master this element of the game then his international future may not be all that bright.

    It would also depend on how England want to play. There would be no point in picking Cipriani if you are going to play a conservative kick and chase game, if he plays you have to build your team around him. Maybe a strong game manager such as Owen Farrell or even Flood outside him could be the way to go.

    1. “the first function of the 10 is game management and Cipriani has never been good at that” …. I disagree that game in 2008 was a master class in hame mangement. Hes just never been able to do it consistently. For that he needs stability mentally, physically and coaching.

        1. True but that’s one game 3 years ago. I can also remember him putting in a huge hit for Wasps once but that doesn’t make him a good defender. It is the weakest part of his game along with his defence.

  4. With some players, Cooper is a good example, it’s better to acknowledge that they’ve done wrong in the past and support them moving forward.

    When you have a guy who can do stuff like this:

    , you must make the most of him.

    1. Ben
      lots of players have talent, those that harness that with hard work, dedication and humility on and off the field are the ones that succeed.

      The perfect example and “man of the moment” is Stepehn Donald. Perhaps hes not quite as talented as Cips, but his head is in the right place and he delivers the right headlines.

      Donald has the right to a bit a of plonker given how much he has achieved yet chooses not to be, a mark of the man. that same trait is why he landed that penalty and remains an excellent operator.

      We could talk about wasted talent all day long and it gets you nowhere without dedication.

      In short, i would not trust Cips in an england shirt.

      Also, he shagged Jordan, so for that reason alone, hes out.

      1. I’m with you all the way Jimmy. Anyone who shags Jordan should never be allowed to wear an England shirt. But then again he also shagged Kelly Brook, so if you weigh the two up, he’s not that stupid.

  5. Cooper cant tackle and off the field has had his moments (thieving) but he aussies make it work.

    but we not the aussies are we.

  6. Thank you for the sermon according to Cips! I think that this is his own take on events, but I’m always a sucker for giving someone a second chance and if he can prove that he has grown up, I’d welcome him back into the England fold with open arms. He certainly has talent.

    He should start off with Saxons to prove himself. I think Flood and Farrell should both be ahead of him in the pecking order as of now

  7. Anyone know if he has learnt how to tackle yet?

    The comments above mention Cooper, but if we’re honest, Cooper is as much a liability as he is a benefit. Aus would have fared better against both the Kiwis and Ireland in the RWC if Berrick Barnes had been playing instead

    Cooper and Cipriani both belong firmly in the Carlos Spencer fold

    It is possible both to have flair and talent and yet to still be able to play a sensible, steady game. Witness Dan Carter, Nick Evans, Francois Trinh-Duc

    Cipriani had the chance of a fresh start in Aus and yet managed to stuff it up to such an extent that his own team decided they didn’t want him touring with them.

    We won’t even mention the pap shots of him and Jordan only a couple of months ago

    It seems that he still wants the celebrity with the hard work and that is definitely something the England team can do with less of at the moment

      1. That’s why I’d give him a shot in the Saxons to see what he’s learnt. He has gone back for a second season with the Rebels, so he can’t be a total washout. Would however be worried about being seen with Joe Jordan though as he’s definitely a c list celeb.

        Just joking! I do know who she is!

  8. Nope – afraid he’s not as good as he was in 2008. Watched him all season and that try aside, he mostly had a shocker. Lateral running, poor options and the weakest tackling i’ve ever seen. In some games he’d miss 5 or 6 one on one tackles and even the ones he makes are more luck than judgement.

    It’s all chat. He still has the talent but doesn’t seem to be able to apply it. I was such a fan of his at Wasps and that game against Ireland was brilliant…close to perfect for a 10…but he is definitely not ready to be in the England set up.

    Watch me be proven spectacularly wrong this weekend.

  9. For me the problem with Cips is his lack of discipline, respect for other players, and the fact that he can’t tackle. Now Flood is not a great tackler, but he’s got better. The thing is Cips needs a controller outside him at 12. Farrell fits the bill perfectly, but something tells me they would not get along too well. Personally I would rather see Flood, Farrell, Ford, Burns, Clegg, anyone except him. If he can settle down and sort out his attitude, then maybe, but I can’t see him changing for the benefit of the rest of the team.

  10. The mis management of Cipriani is a prime example of the malaise that affects the game as a whole in England.

    Cipriani is one of the hardest trainers out there, and is as dedicated to playing rugby as any of his rivals for teh England shirt.

    The problem is that in this country rugby and its supporters are such a conservative bunch, who view flair and skill with suspicion and treat anyone who doesnt fit the bill of the traditional rugger bugger with disdain.

    I dont care if hes shagged Jordan, i dont care if hes in the papers, all i care about is that he is given a chance to prove himself, because without a doubt he is the best 10 this country has ever produced.

    I am a big fan of Farrel, but playing wise hes a much improved version of Flood, and flood is a fly half who wouldnt be near the international shirt in any other country.

    Simpson/Youngs at 9, Cips at 10, Ashton 11, Farrell at 12, and Tuilagi at 13, Sharples/Wade 14 and Foden at 15 is the back line we should be looking at now.

    1. he hasnt / isnt delivering on the pitch for the mel reds.
      he hasnt delivered off the pitch (nicking stuff from nightclubs etc)

      on what basis is he the “best” ?

      His best rugby was played at wasps…..from full back not 10!

    2. ‘without a doubt he is the best 10 this country has ever produced.’

      On what basis? Your opinion is generally a fair one but you’ve overstated the case to a spectacular degree there. He has achieved nothing. If I was a rival 10 (and frankly I should be) trying to get in the Saxons or England team and he was selected ahead of me at the moment I would be livid.

      Also he has a track record of being disruptive. Therefore he has to do that little bit more to get picked, if there is any doubt within the squad about whether he merits a place it could be severely divisive.

      I agree that it’s a sad state of affairs if we can’t harness his undoubted abilities but he has got to be prepared to change as well. It’s a tough balance to strike.

      Also for what it’s worth I think he’s potentially a far better 15 than a 10. Wasps were moving in that direction. He’s an awesome broken field runner with slightly dodgy decision making who always looks for his own gap first and is brim full of confidence. At full back his strengths remain important and his weaknesses are less important. Foden was eventually mature enough to realise where his future lies, will Cipriani be?

      1. I forgot to mention that!

        Serious team players dont behave as he does and yes, its considered disruptive to the team, and therefore in many [peoples eyes, thats enough reason not to be included.

        the mel reds turn a blind eye to his shenanigans….just….(they are also bottom of the league P 16, W3)……

        And the fact that he cant tackle…… still a major issue @ full back, possibly even more an issue as you can hide your 10 from his channel as Aus to with Quade, but you cant shift your fullback from fullback!!!!

        people – just drop the Cips for england chat!!!!!!!

        1. But Australia hide Quade at full back is my point, if you want to hide someone that’s the perfect place. I play there and you rarely have to make more than 4 tackles in a game and many games you aren’t called on to make a try saver. I don’t think Van Gisbergen or Abendanon have made a one on one tackle in their entire careers.

          1. Must have told us about four or five times yesterday how much he’d been working on his defence. Was top of his priorities. I’ll give him Saturday and the first four games of the Super Rugby season to show some improvement.

    3. I have to say that I can’t really agree. He’s a classic example of modern rugby players who have everything handed to them on a plate, wasting it as he can’t manage himself. That’s not the RFU’s fault although plenty is.

    4. Let us face historic fact, Cipriani was acting like a tool. He did not listen was not playing to an acceptable standard and it was easy to leave a confused and unfocussed young man out of the Squad.Time away has sharpened his appetite,hardly a bad thing.

  11. Sorry i meant to say naturally talented – he has a long way to go to be the best, but it really annoys me that he has been left to drift like he has, when surely we should be trying to harness his skills.

  12. “The mis management of Cipriani is a prime example of the malaise that affects the game as a whole in England”

    You do realise that Sir Ian McGeechan was his manager at wasps don’t u? Not only is Geechs one of the best managers in the business, but it was also the only time when Cips was playing to his potential, and yet Geechs still had trouble controlling him. When offered the chance to have Cips come to Bath, Geechs said no. What does that tell you?

    Does he have talent. Yes. Is he his own worst enemy. Yes. Does he deserve a chance with England. Definitely not!!!

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