Thursday, 25 February 2010

Cipriani, the debate goes on all over the Planet of Rugby

HERE'S what I posted on the absorbing Planet Rugby Forum this morning: "Sorry to start a new thread, but I've had emails from Planet Rugby posters asking for my response. Have read the arguments since Daily Mail article yesterday and thought I'd offer this.
Chris Foy is a good bloke, a football writer who worked hard to replace Peter Jackson when he retired as the Mail's rugby guru. Like Jacko, he is not the kind of journalist who simply does what the RFU asks.
If the instances he quotes about Cipriani aren't true he will be sued. He must have had a good source... or two. But make no mistake, this is a direct reponse from Martin Johnson and Co to Cipriani's quotes when he decided to go to Melbourne.
Without question Cipriani has burned his bridges with the current regime at all levels, particularly with his open support of Wales (Gwlad readers will love that)... but I suspect by then Cipriani had already given up on an England future under MJ.
Here's my view: Cips is a new generation rugby player. Ambitious, selfish, impatient. He doesn't fit in with Martin Johnson's regime or MJ's idea of what a rugby player should be. But that doesn't make him a talentless twat, just a petulant fool. Football puts up with such characters if they have the talent, cricket does too (you should have seen Kevin Pietersen batting against selector Ashley Giles in nets on tour in December, and then there's Craig Bellamy).
Given that Shaun Edwards is his coach at Wasps, Cipriani wouldn't have got away with the way he behaved with the Saxons at club level. Edwards would have torn him off a strip. Inside the club, Cipriani is respected for working hard... most of the time.
The fact remains that Cipriani, after his treatment at the hands of a very mediocre England set-up, had no choice other than to pursue his career overseas at what he perceives as the top level. If he succeeds at Super 15, he will have proved his point to MJ and the doubters.
I still think it's a brave move, the kind of thing top sportsmen (and ordinary people in all walks of life) do when the road ahead is blocked.
Whether Cipriani has the talent to comeback with his status restored after tales like this, I'm not sure.
What I do know is that Cipriani was picked out as a major talent at every level as he progressed through the ranks. I hope he makes it in Melbourne. It's a big ask.
But rugby needs to find a place for the Big Charlie rugby player to survive. Cipriani, like Stuart Barnes and Gavin Henson, believes he can behave as he does and win our respect on talent alone.
These are just the ramblings of a sports fanatic, I'm not saying I know better than anybody else on here. But for the good of rugby I hope Cipriani is the toast of the Super15 when he goes Down Under. I have my doubts."

It was written in response to this piece from Chris Foy in the Daily Mail yesterday:

"Danny Cipriani was hailed as the saviour of English rugby when he broke into the national side as a prodigiously talented 20-year-old.

Two years later, his hopes of a long international career lie in tatters after he broke two of the commandments in England - you don't cheer for Wales and you don't mock the living legend that is Martin Johnson.

Cipriani, 22, has long been seen as an outsider in the rugby world - his love of the celebrity life and his relationship with model girlfriend Kelly Brook, 31, were met with derision in many quarters.

But he has gone a step too far by cheering for Wales against England, and mocking national coach and World Cup winner Johnson.

Critics say he is a traitor, and after his vocal support for England's historic rivals was reported back, it is understood he has no chance of playing for his country's first team while Johnson is in charge.

Cipriani last week announced a move from London club Wasps to the Melbourne Rebels in Australia for £170,000 a year, which scuppered plans for an immediate future in the England squad.

But it was his behaviour earlier this month while surrounded by fellow players from the England Saxons, the country's 'B' team, which sealed his fate.

Last night a source close to the England squad said: 'Cipriani was in Italy with the Saxons preparing for their game against the Italians.

'The senior team were playing Wales at Twickenham, so the Saxons got together in front of a TV in their hotel to watch.

'Danny was shouting at the screen throughout - in support of the Welsh.

'And when Adam Jones scored for Wales, Danny was jumping up and down in celebration.

'He was also making barbed comments whenever the cameras showed Johnson in the stand.

'The rest of the team were appalled. They thought he was behaving like a complete twit.'

Some observers will see this latest debacle as simply the culmination of the young star's increasingly arrogant behaviour.

Former England captain Will Carling recently said he had decided not to become Cipriani's manager, adding: 'I do not believe Danny's focus is on playing for England'.

Cipriani's high profile makes him popular with sponsors - he has a reputed £1.2million deal with Adidas - but it is not appreciated by many in the rugby world.

Two years ago, he was axed from the England team because he was seen leaving a nightclub two days before a match against Scotland.

In October 2008, Cipriani was punched by Wasps team-mate Josh Lewsey during training, and other squad members are said to have scrawled disparaging comments next to his name in the changing rooms.

One Wasps source said last year: 'There are a lot of Danny Cipriani types in football - but they stick out like a sore thumb in rugby. It does not go down well.'"

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