Saturday 22 October 2016

'It feels like coming home' - Danny Cipriani turns down Toulon in favour of return to Wasps

Nick Purewal

Published 16/02/2016 | 13:21

Danny Cipriani
Danny Cipriani

Danny Cipriani will leave Sale Sharks and return to his first club Wasps this summer.

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The 28-year-old had a season left to run on his existing Sale deal, but has chosen to exercise a break clause and return to Wasps, where he made his name, in what Press Association Sport understands is a two-year deal.

Cipriani left Wasps for Australian Super Rugby franchise Melbourne Rebels in 2011, but returned to England to join Sale a year later.

The 14-cap England fly-half rejected triple European champions Toulon to sign a contract extension at Sale in February, but will now leave the North West club a year early this summer.

"I'm excited about returning to Wasps next season, for me, it really does feel like coming home," said Cipriani.

"In the professional era, players naturally move clubs more frequently than they used to, but I still feel such a strong connection with Wasps.

"It's where I learned my trade, alongside incredible players like Lawrence Dallaglio, Joe Worsley, Alex King, Fraser Waters, Josh Lewsey and Paul Sackey.

"I have such good memories of that period in my life, I feel much more equipped to handle and deal with the expectation that comes when you put on the black and gold jersey.

"I feel next season will be the right time for a new challenge, at a club which in my heart will always feel like a second home, where I know I will settle quickly."

Cipriani burst through at Wasps in 2006 after impressing at England age-grade level, only to court controversy once on the cusp of Test prominence.

England head coach Brian Ashton dropped Cipriani two days before his Test debut in the 2008 Six Nations, after the then 20-year-old was spotted in a nightclub.

The talented playmaker eventually made his Test bow later in that campaign, underlining his huge promise.

Though he recovered from a nasty fracture-dislocation of his right ankle to regain his Test spot in the autumn of 2008, he then slipped out of the England picture for six years.

A string of disciplinary run-ins and his move to Melbourne left Cipriani out of the Test picture, before he set about rebuilding his reputation at Sale.

Despite being hit by a bus on a night out in Leeds in April 2013, Cipriani was able to fulfil his ambition of returning to England colours.

Stuart Lancaster took Cipriani on the summer tour to New Zealand in 2014, with the Sale star pushing hard for a regular berth.

Cipriani featured in the 2015 Six Nations and World Cup warm-up matches, but was omitted from England's final squad for the autumn's global showdown.

Wasps won two Heineken Cups, Cipriani featuring in the 2007 European triumph, before the club slipped to the brink of administration.

Owner Derek Richardson has guided Wasps to financial security through the Coventry switch however, leaving Cipriani impressed with that turnaround.

"It's brilliant to see how the club has rebuilt over the past couple of seasons," said Cipriani.

"The potential of the squad that Dai (Young) has developed is really exciting and I have been impressed by the ambition Wasps has shown since Derek Richardson took over and stabilised things.

"I'm really looking forward to playing alongside guys I started my career with, like James Haskell, Joe Simpson, Christian Wade and Elliot Daly, in a squad that loves to play attacking, expansive rugby."

Rugby director Dai Young admitted he was delighted to be able to bring Cipriani back to Wasps.

"We have always been keen for Danny to return to Wasps; everyone knows how talented a player Danny is and how much his game has developed since he made such an impact for England at a young age.

"As well as his obvious attacking attributes, Danny has matured as a player and controls the game well as a 10."

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