Danny Cipriani Is All Grown Up.
Consider it a good thing that you’ve not seen Danny Cipriani splashed across the gossip pages of tabloid newpapers. Be thankful for the fact that you are reading about the former Mr Kelly Brook in a rugby column.
Why? Because Danny Cipriani is undergoing a career revival at Sale, and he could realistically be next-in-line to England’s number 10 jersey.
After a dip in performance and a Gavin Henson-esque penchant for making the wrong kind of headlines, Cipriani was forced into exile and subsequently headed down under for a two-year stint with the Melbourne Rebels.
There was no doubting that time in professional Rugby’s best domestic tournament would improve Cipriani’s technical skills, but question marks remained over his maturity – whether he could focus on his game, and play the pragmatic rugby necessary to grind out tough wins in the muddy northern hemisphere.
After being hit by a bus on a team social earlier this year, he has answered those questions this season with an emphatic ‘yes’. Cipriani has been the driving force behind many of Sale’s wins this season: proving to be solid from the kicking tee, smart in his decision-making and dependable in defence.
However – most importantly – it is his ability to integrate all of this with his natural playmaking ability, flair and abundant skill that warrants a call-up to Stuart Lancaster’s England squad for the 2014 Six Nations tournament.
Owen Farrell enjoyed a good Lions tour this year, and his form for club and country has been noteworthy, but critics rightly observed that the dominance of the England pack is going to waste with a back line that simply cannot get going.
It’s entirely possible that thing would have been different with an injury-free midfield and back line featuring Tuilagi, Wade and Yarde, but England need their number 10 to ignite the spark regardless of who they are playing alongside. Cipriani is capable of playing smart and skilful rugby in equal measure – precisely what England need in order to take advantage of their forwards’ dominance – and now is the time for Lancaster to experiment.