‘Difficult’ Cipriani can show that the past is behind him

We all have them don’t we? You know, those friends who we’ve been lifelong friends with. Actually in my case I lack the luxury of friends, instead I printed off Jonny Wilkinson’s face, stuck it on a rugby ball and called it ‘Gilbert’. Back to the point- those friends who had we not met them in childhood and become accustomed to their wayward ways, we’d probably turn our noses up at them if we were to meet them now. These are the type of people who generally end up performing an embarrassing act at a party and when faced with looks of disdain, you find it difficult to exactly pinpoint these bosom buddy’s strengths.

Well, Danny Cipriani is English rugby’s version of this difficult friend. Writing this article may well prove challenging as I find it difficult to decide why exactly I like him so much despite his well reported flaws, both on and off the pitch. Should we as English rugby fans welcome him back with open arms, meet him at Heathrow and massage his shoulders in the car on the way up to Salford?

One argument is that Cipriani has received rough treatment by both the game and the press in this country. Cast your minds back to the glory days of his emergence. My thoughts instantly revert back to an England team and Premiership lacking any type of creativity.Cipriani offered vibrancy, in a way a banana would do in ration-card Britain. His style of play before that infamous injury, was exciting from a purist point of view. He played on the gain-line, threw flat passes bringing his team mates into dangerous positions and had a knack of breaking defensive lines.

He was outstanding before his injury, but yet still had a point to prove, and that’s where I think things started to go wrong. Here was a young man who had the sport in this country at his feet but what wasn’t obviously clear to him was that this was all conditional. Firstly the press, as they so often have a knack of doing, built Cipriani up before he had actually really achieved anything significant that matched his undoubted talent. It would be ludicrous to suggest that this shouldn’t or wouldn’t affect Cipriani’s hubris; it certainly would mine. Secondly, this was all fine until he started to conflict with the traditional spirit of the game and highlight the still uneasy status of professionalism and commercialism within rugby. People became wise that there was a vacuum between the reported skill of this player with the actual stage of his rugby development, and this was far too wide to allow any type of tolerance of his off field antics.

The old guard of rugby were simultaneously disgusted and fearful that in Cipriani they had a poster boy for a progressive stage of professionalism, one that mixed with celebrity status. The fact that Cipriani seemed to revel in the limelight was too much for the RFU. I believe that very little support or advice was on offer for Cipriani evident through Martin Johnson’s tenureship who in effect sent him to rugby’s version of that tourist hotspot- Siberia. Now those reading this might think I so far have given Cipriani an easy ride, and not highlighted the many misdemeanours that lead figures such as Johnson to resort to isolating Cipriani and that nearly led the Melbourne Rebels to rethink their gamble. I quite agree, I haven’t highlighted them, because they are so blatantly obvious and in the back of all our minds. He obviously has his faults, these we readily picked upon and there the RFU had a scapegoat.

So the problem child returns, this time to Manchester and I believe Steve Diamond, a shrewd man with a 5 year plan, knows exactly what he’s getting. I hope Cipriani, with the benefit of hindsight and gaining maturity, will avoid the temptations Manchester provides WAGS and footballers. But that’s not to say I want him to change his personality for the benefit of others. It’s time that rugby started judging him on his game, a game that I believe lacks many dimensions (especially a defensive one), despite glimpses of attacking genius. So no, Owen Farrell shouldn’t be too worried about his shirt on the international stage, but that’s not to say things won’t change. I have a feeling though, opinions will be based on who we like the most, regardless of form.

by James Perowne

30 thoughts on “‘Difficult’ Cipriani can show that the past is behind him

  1. I saw him tear Ireland apart at HQ and have never seen a 10 from England do a similar feat. Hopefully he can find humility and work hard at his game because he can be a real diamond, his pace especially and Sale could be perfect. Just hope he doesnt go ‘Henson’ on us.

    1. Have you heard of a guy called Jonny Wilkinson? He was pretty good at rugby from time to time. Did you ever watch England 2000-2003?

      I’m gunna put it out there that i think Flood has also shown attacking displays for England on a par with Cipriani’s vs Ireland. 2 aus wins, Wales and Italy last 6N spring to mind.

  2. sale are desperate, England luckily, are not.
    I simply wouldnt ever play danny in my team, his attitude stinks.

    1. Agreed there jimmy. Unless his sorted his attitude out towards team mates, he shouldn’t get anywhere near the England team. But he knows now whilst Lancaster is in charge, any slip ups off the pitch will see him sidelined from any England team for some time.

  3. Irrelevant conversation really. We know he’s not ready to do any more than play club rugby at present. Let’s see what 12 months at Sale (obviously without Bryan Redpaths influence) does for him and then look at him again and have a discussion about how he’s playing (or alternatively on why Sale have given up on him and how good his dancing is!).

  4. Cipriani is the worst 10 in the world I can imagine playing 10 for England right now. He’s just a VERY mediocre club player at best, And I never understood why he built up this awesome reputation, especially went he’s like running through paper in defence.

    Also his attitude sucks.

  5. Cipriann is indicative of everything that is wrong with Rugby in this country.

    I love rugby, for me it’s the best sport out there.

    But rugby in England is ruined for me by the attitudes of most of those who support it, play it, and run it.

    Cipriani is/was a maverick who we should be trying to harness into the potent weapon he so clearl can be for England – but no, because he represents something different to the rugger bugger of old, he is shunned, and treated with sucspision.

    No one quaIified to play for England has anything like the skill set this kid has, and any other country would have done there best to get him working on his defence, and attitude, in order to get the best out of him.

    If Quade Cooper was English, he would never get near the international set up because he is a player who doesn’t fit into our idea of what a rugby player should be, same with a Carlos Spencer, a Cory Jane, the list goes on.

    Cipriani has its faults but for me the biggest problem is the way he is kicked when he is down – rather than slate him any true England or rugby fan should be hoping he thrives at Sale, and anyone who has seen his last couple of Super Rugby performance can see that he is on his way back to his best

    1. I agree with much of this sentiment. Look at Dickson, Farrell, Barrit as a 9,10,12 combo is workman like and respectable but never going to worry the best teams unless we have utter forward dominance. StilI don’t think cips is there yet tho.

      Also i don’t think Cory Jane falls into this character he seems to me like a perfect all rounder. Not like Quade and Cips who have fallible skill sets defensively and personality issues… Am i missing something?

    2. I’m not convinced that you’ve helped yourself with the Spencer – Cooper argument. The aussies were never going to win the RWC with Cooper running the show – too flaky. Yes he can do amazing things but he can also lose a game on his own. Spencer was similar but in a better team. The AB’s ditched him as soon as they had a viable alternative!

      I’m trying to think how many maverick FH’s have won RWCs (which is now the ultimate goal for all of the top sides. All I can remember are pragmatic FHs – Fox, Lynagh, Stransky, Wilkinson to mention a couple. Larkham is as close to maverick as you get.

      1. Quade was still an integral part of a Super 14 title and a 3N. If you Iron out the flakes then Quade/Cipriani become the best options but thats easier said than done.

  6. I’m inclined to agree with the “its irrelevant” and “he needs to prove at club level” arguments… But something that has made me think about him getting back the England shirt is the fact that the Aussie commentators have started to refer to the the Beale, Cipriani and O’conner combination as “the three omigos”! Do you think the Aus commentators would be so readily talking about a ‘pom’ in the same breath as these proven stars if he wasn’t delivering some of the goods? He still has massive flaws and needs consistency but I don’t think anyone should doubt his potential.

    1. Didn’t and don’t doubt his potential, but until he shows he can put it together again at club level he doesn’t deserve to be in the England 10 discussion.

      However haven’t seen any aussie rugby to judge how he’s playing so may be doing him an injustice.

      1. Agreed. A season in the prem and then have this discussion.

        The real debate is of course Farrel Vs Flood… any thoughts on that? Personally I’m a Flood fan. I’m really glad he had a good game on the weekend. Whilst hes no Dan Carter hes a much better attacker than Farrell and his D is safe if not dominant.

        1. I have to say that SA will be interesting for these two. Flood has come back from injury and is playing well. I think the 6Ns was a bit early after his injury, he seemed a bit short of playing time perhaps.

          To be fair to Flood, I don’t think that he’s let anyone down in an England shirt and competition for the 10 spot is good as players do get injured. At the current time Flood is the better attacking option, although Farrell might be the better game manager. I’d like to see what Farrell could do with a more attacking game plan though as I don’t think he had that in the 6N.

          1. Ye I don’t even know if i think Farrell is a great game manager. I think our kick chase made his kicking game look awesome when really its pretty average. I think this is the same at sarries where the added pressure relief from having Hodgson there also helps. I won’t argue against his D or goal kicking tho.

          2. I think that you’re being a bit harsh on his decision making. He didn’t look like a rabbit in the headlights which might have been justifiable considering his age, lack of international experience and the pressure of the games. He looked assured. However I would like to see more in attack. We will however learn much more about both Flood and Farrell this summer. Going to be immense pressure on them methinks.

  7. “The old guard of rugby were simultaneously disgusted and fearful that in Cipriani they had a poster boy for a progressive stage of professionalism, one that mixed with celebrity status.”

    I don’t think the old guard were scared of progressing professionalism further. I just think that the management felt that Cipriani believed he was bigger than the team and that should never be the case.

    If he performs well at club level and lets his rugby do the talking for him then yes, he should perhaps be given another shot for England. However, he has yet to address defensive issues and is behind a number of other Premiership Fly Halves, Farrell and Flood for starters.

    Off the pitch he needs to continue to mature. Rugby has been a professional sport for almost 17 years now and how many global superstars have there been in that time? Lomu, Wilkinson, Carter, Habana etc. Even Ben Foden is getting the OK! magazine treatment at the moment.

    However, only a handful of players seem to let it affect them, Henson top of the list. We’re past the point of Cipriani being an immature young man, he needs to back up his ambition to pull on the England jersey again with actions either side of the whitewash.

  8. James Perowne’s final sentence is all wrong as far as I am concerned. Perhaps that applied to some extent with Jonno, but Stuart Lancaster will have a different view on things. Farrell, Flood and Cipriani are a trio of excellent 10s, but woe betide any of them if they go down the ‘I’m a celebrity’ route.

    1. Gersboy= I couldn’t agree with you more. With hindsight that sentence should have been reviewed. Lancaster is an honest, smart and pragmatic coach, who will pick Cipriani if he plays well enough to earn the call up (regardless of reputation). Lancaster has also coached DC at Saxons level and as far as I know has a good relationship with him.

  9. Rugby is littered with boys who showed flashes of “genius” but were unable to put entire games together. Most of these boys never get past amateur Sat afternoon rugby with free beer. They can be king of the village but they’ll never step up and cut it on the top stage because they can’t avoid the dreadful flaws in their game – rubbish defence, suicidal decision making (dressed up as “off the wall genius” by bored commentators) and loutish off field behaviour. Danny has never looked more to me than many other one dimensional (excellent in attack, offers nothing else) boys I’ve seen play the game. Marry that with an ego the size of Saturn and it’s no surprise he gets a kicking from the press, the fans and his professional colleagues.

    1. You can coach those bad aspects out of players tho. Nonu is a prime example. When he first came on the seen he had a bit of a stinking arrogant attitude and was defensively weak (obviously not in the tackle but alignment wise). Henry put him in a side that complimented his talents allowed/forced him to mature and he became the best 12 in the world.

  10. I think Sale is a good club for him. Diamond is no nonsense which, combined with a bit more maturity from Cips, will provide an environment to get the best out of him.

    He does offer attacking threat through kick, pass and run. Not something that can be said for many English FHs (an on form Flood is the most complete in my opinion). Good luck to him, hopefully we will see some consistency and not just flashes of brilliance that make a great highlights montage.

  11. I have a feeling that Cipriani will be one of those players that will never quite have the match temperament to gain international honours. He hasn’t really shown any dazzling in the super 15 aside from 1 try that seems to be played over and over. He will no doubt become a premiership wild card, putting in the odd heroic performance until he gets no where with England and decides to accept a no doubt considerable offer from France where they will celebrate his rash yet outstanding ability.

  12. Really looking forward to having Cips back in the premiership. You only have to look at what some of his Rebels team mates think of him to highlight how good he really is. His defense might be a bit questionable, but to be honest, I think his attacking ability far outweighs this. Whatever to positive rugby? O’Conner has played his best rugby outside Cips for the Rebels, as Cips is a weapon in his own right. This should be exciting, the space then allowed for someone like Tuilagi would be brilliant. Then maybe switch Farrell to 12, and all of a sudden the balance of the midfield looks much better.

    1. Ditto. He may never be a poster boy role model professional but a player who can run in a great try with a muscle pull and is then willing to make a tit out of himself for the amusement of others by dancing the Dougie will always be be fun to watch.

  13. The only reason England should even thinking of including him in the team is if they get the forwards right, and he has the right people outside him. England are a completely different team to the one he was in before. With the likes of Tuilagi, Barritt, JTH, Jonathan Joseph as options outside the 10 channel, he could be worthy of the experiment, but only if he’s sorted his attitude out.

  14. The whole rugby system in Australia is conducive of supporting players that look to attack and ignore defensive duties, which don’t get my wrong i love and should be celebrated. However, if he wants to be considered for England duty then that isn’t enough. Freddie Burns at Gloucester is a dangerous attacking 10, but lacks in other departments and so isn’t mentioned when talking of England. England need to be careful not to do what Wales did with Henson and pick him based upon previous performances.

    http://www.inattheside.com – for development rugby – uni, schools and sevens

    1. I guess you didn’t watch the quarter final against South Africa, or indeed any of the Wallaby backline performances at the last world cup – all they did was defend. They had to, because the forward pack underperformed and Quade Cooper was lost in the wilderness.

      The wallaby backline has historically been strong runners and defenders primarily due to osmosis from our league brethren. It props up the shallow player base. That, incidentally is also why our scrums have struggled since the professional era.

  15. What is the point in Cipriani being (apparently) great in attack and rubbish in defence?

    There isn’t one.

    Pit Cipriani at 10 against any of the worlds top sides and watch as the England backline begins to resemble a slice of edam.

    All this “maverick” talk surprises me, if acting like a complete tw- you know what means your a maverick, then yes, Cipriani is the biggest maverick in the game.

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