Cipriani wants better headlines

Wed, 02 May 2012 00:00
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An older and wiser Danny Cipriani will link up with his new Sale teammates next month armed with a steely determination to start making headlines for all the right reasons.

An older and wiser Danny Cipriani will link up with his new Sale teammates next month armed with a steely determination to start making headlines for all the right reasons.

The frenzy of media attention that followed the revelation of the 24-year-old's decision to pen a three-year contract with the Sharks earlier this year was a potent reminder that the playmaker with film star looks is pure box office gold.

But over the past two years - largely through no fault of his own - Cipriani had appeared to be in danger of being remembered more for his private life and glamorous girlfriends - international model Kelly Brook is amongst his former squeezes - rather than his undoubted ability on the field.

The fear voiced in some quarters was that a glorious talent was in danger of going unfulfilled.

But after spending the past 18 months sampling both a new lifestyle and new career challenge 10,000 miles away from the English media glare by plying his trade in Melbourne - playing Super Rugby for the Rebels - Cipriani will return back home this month ready to re-ignite both his own career as well as seeking to help Sale maintain their revival in fortunes.

And in an interview with Manchester Evening News Sport, Cipriani talked candidly about his hopes and aspirations as he prepares for life in Manchester and why, above all, he simply wants to let his rugby do the talking for him.

"I just want to make the news for what I do on the rugby field," Cipriani declared. "I guess, when it comes down to it, I've got quite a lot to prove to myself as I know where I can be and what I can do and I want to achieve that with Sale.

"They have given me the opportunity and placed their trust in me and, hopefully, together we can each achieve our goals.

"I think I will be coming back as a better player and a better person for the experience of playing with Melbourne. I've done a lot of different things in the 18 months I've been out here in Australia and it has all been part of growing up, I guess.

"I've also learnt a lot by playing in Melbourne and I've thoroughly enjoyed playing in the Super 15.

"It's one of the best leagues in the world and the players have been top notch to play with and, hopefully, I'll be able to bring something different and some experience of that side of things with Sale but most of all I just want to try to fit in with the lads.

"I know there's a real good spirit at Sale and that is so important in order to be a successful club and I just want to integrate myself with the boys as quickly as I can".

As positive proof of his desire to quickly acquaint himself with the team ethos and all-for-one attitude engineered by Sharks' Chief Executive Steve Diamond, Cipriani this week secured an early release from the remainder of his Melbourne contract in order to ensure he can link up with the rest of the Sale squad when they report for pre-season training on June 6.

That means the dashing playmaker will be free to return home to England later this month rather than at the end of the Super Rugby campaign in late July as was first envisaged when he penned his three-year Sale deal in March.

And in explaining his reasons in spurning the advances of a host of other suitors, most notably Leicester and London Irish, Cipriani revealed the inspirational qualities of Diamond not to mention the passionate backing of multi-millionaire owner Brian Kennedy were key factors in his decision to hit the North.

"I chose Sale for lots of reasons but Steve played a really big part in the decision," Cipriani told the Manchester Evening News.

"I spoke a lot on the phone with Steve and he came across as a really good guy.

"I know he's looking to really build something quite special at the club. He wants to put Sale into that real top category and he's started by virtually getting them back into the Heineken Cup and back to winning ways like they were back in 2006 when they won the title I guess.

"He talked to me about the squad, about who was playing there and the amount of talent that is there with guys like Rob Miller, Andy Powell, Mark Cueto and Dwayne Peel.

"After all that it was an easy decision but it was one that I had to take my time over but I'm glad that I made it.

"I also had a few chats with Brian Kennedy and I know he's got a big involvement in the club and that he wants Sale to go places as well.

"The fact that Brian is so involved was another big factor in why I chose to join Sale as well. He seemed like a really good bloke and tried to make everything easy for me and, as I say, with all the talented players they have got, I think it could make for a fantastic season next year.

"I think everyone at the club is going to want to move on from a sixth placed finish this season. The aim has to be push on for a place in the top four and I think that will be well within our reach with the ethos Steve has put into the squad and with the players he has signed like Richie Gray.

"As for aims and ambitions, all I really care about is winning and trying to win as many Premierships and Heineken Cups as I can... that's the main thing for me.

"I was very fortunate to win a few trophies when I was younger at Wasps and having got used to winning ways at such an early age, it's all I really want and what I strive for as a player.

"So Sale seemed the perfect choice as next year we are going to challenge and push on for the top four and once you get there I know that anything can happen."

News of Cipriani's impending arrival has already set one or two wags cracking jokes about nightclubs preparing to roll out the red carpet for the latest high-profile addition to Manchester's celebrity A list.

But having been stung on more than one occasion by the attentions of the frenzied London paparazzi during his high-profile time at Wasps, Cipriani says this time around he will be simply crave the quieter life once he moves to the North West.

And having taken soundings about the region, he admits he is relishing the prospect of living outside the capital's goldfish bowl.

"I have spoken to a lot of people about living in Manchester and I'm really excited at the prospect," Cipriani revealed. "Some of the people over here at Melbourne previously lived in Cheshire and they have spoken to me about living there and they have said how much they enjoyed the area.

"So I'm excited about settling in Manchester. I've never really been in the area for long periods before - just overnight stays whenever Wasps played Sale in the past - but I'm really looking forward to it.

"It will be another different experience and one I'm really excited about.

"Perhaps there won't be as much intrusion with the media as there is in London...that would be nice!! Hopefully it will be a bit quieter!"

As well as that quest to shine bright for Sale, Cipriani will also arrive back home armed with a burning desire to force his way back into the England squad.

After winning the last of his seven caps back in 2008, Cipriani's international star suddenly waned due in equal measure to injury, the conservative approach of former manager Martin Johnson and, more latterly, the sudden emergence of young Turk Owen Farrell.

Yet despite his vast experience, its easy to forget that Cipriani himself is still only 24 and with the 2015 World Cup being staged in England, new national head coach Stuart Lancaster has already made encouraging noises about a Cipriani return to the international fold should he establish himself at Sale.

"Playing for England again is a huge goal of mine. but my performance and focus has to start at my club and right now all my energies are on pre-season with Sale," Cipriani added.

"Hopefully, if I can help Sale get off to a good start next season, other things will take care of themselves. But for me I've got to simply focus on doing the best I can for Sale.

"I want to do the best I can for Sale and to help them achieve some great things and I firmly believe that the best is yet to come."

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Team P W D L Pts
Northampton Saints 22 16 1 5 76
Bath 22 16 0 6 75
Leicester Tigers 22 15 1 6 68
Saracens 22 14 1 7 68
Exeter Chiefs 22 14 0 8 68
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Sale Sharks 22 11 0 11 54
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Gloucester 22 9 1 12 48
London Irish 22 7 1 14 40
Newcastle Falcons 22 5 1 16 34
London Welsh 22 0 0 22 1