x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Only way is up for Danny Cipriani

Move to Melbourne has failed to halt a lifestyle that could end a once-promising career for English fly-half.

Danny Cipriani's poor performances on the field for Melbourne Rebels have failed to help him recover from antics off it. Mark Kolbe / Getty Images
Danny Cipriani's poor performances on the field for Melbourne Rebels have failed to help him recover from antics off it. Mark Kolbe / Getty Images

Troubled Danny Cipriani fled England after off-field controversies stalled his once-glittering career, but further indiscretions in Australia have put his rugby union future on the brink.

Capped at 20, Cipriani was hailed as a star in the making only for a chaotic social life of women and partying to get in the way, in a pattern which has repeated itself in his adopted home.

Just months into his new life in Australia, the gifted fly-half has twice been disciplined by the Melbourne Rebels, his Super 15 club, for alcohol-fuelled incidents, putting him in danger of being sacked.

Club officials revealed Cipriani broke team rules by going out late not once, but twice after their April 30 defeat in Sydney and then missed training on the Monday, prompting them to drop him from a tour of South Africa.

The incident comes after Cipriani was fined by the team in February, when he was thrown out of a Melbourne nightclub for taking a bottle of vodka from behind the bar - a day after the Rebels lost their Super 15 debut 43-0.

"The playing group and management have lost confidence in Danny after the latest in a series of off-field breaches of the team's behavioural standards," Ross Oakley, the Rebels chief executive, said.

Such peccadilloes are nothing new for Cipriani, who was dropped just days before his debut for England in 2008 when he was photographed leaving a nightclub after midnight.

He was featured in English newspapers over his high-profile relationships with models and celebrities and was even reportedly floored by London Wasps teammate Josh Lewsey in a training ground bust-up in 2008.

Cipriani's attitude inevitably put him on a collision course with England's no-nonsense team manager Martin Johnson.

The seven-cap half-back, 23, took up the offer of a two-year contract to play for the Rebels, a new Super 15 franchise under Rod Macqueen, the former Australia coach, after discovering he did not figure in Johnson's World Cup plans.

But the road to redemption has proved difficult for Cipriani and it seems club officials, teammates and the media are fast running out of patience, particularly with the Rebels languishing second bottom of the Super 15 table after 11 games.

Cipriani's only significant contribution was the last-gasp penalty he kicked to seal the team's first victory in February.

"It is now easy to understand why Danny Cipriani is at risk of never fulfilling his potential as a rugby player," said an opinion piece in the Melbourne Age.

"Surely, now Cipriani must be on his last chance."

Will Carling, the former England captain, also said Cipriani is in danger of wasting his talent.

"He is an incredibly talented player but doesn't seem to understand the dynamics of playing in a team sport," Carling said in an English newspaper.

"There is a code within which teams operate and no one is exempt from it. Danny has to grow up and learn how to fit into a team.

"From what I saw of the guy, there seemed to be an attitude of 'the rules don't apply to me'. Well, they do."

Cipriani, according to his manager, regrets his latest misdemeanour.

"He wants to draw a line under this now and get on with what he does best, which is play rugby," Emanuele Palladino said in a statement last week.

The ball is once again in Cipriani's hands to show those are not just hollow words.

* Agence France-Presse