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Danny Cipriani to rejoin Wasps from Sale Sharks at end of this season

Danny Cipriani’s career has completed a circle. The outside-half is rejoining Wasps next season to pursue his England ambitions, six years after he left the club at a time when his international career had stalled.

“It feels like coming home,” said Cipriani, whose salary will be a reported £400,000, making him one of the Premiership’s best-paid English players when he arrives at the Ricoh Arena from Sale at the end of the season. “In the professional era, players 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. There’s something about Wasps which always draws you in. ‘Once a Wasp, always a Wasp’ is more than just a saying when you’ve been part of the club. 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 in a squad that loves to play attacking, expansive rugby.”

Indeed, Wasps are at Bath on Saturday and it was there in February 2008 that the then 20-year-old Cipriani epitomised that style of play, turning calls for him to be capped by England into a crescendo as he scored 22 points in a 42-34 victory and a try that was stunning in its audacity.

He was picked by England three weeks later but two days before his scheduled debut start against Scotland at Murrayfield, he was photographed leaving a London nightclub after midnight and was axed from the squad for inappropriate behaviour.

The mix of his rugby career and private life became a recurring theme. An ankle injury at the end of the 2007-08 season ruled him out of the summer tour to New Zealand and although he regained his place the following November, he was dropped after two matches and fell out with the new management team.


The subsequent departure from Wasps to the Melbourne Rebels had the intention of taking him out of the limelight to let him be judged by how he played but he was disciplined for incidents off the field and returned to England after making only 19 appearances for the Rebels.

He made his Sale debut in September 2012 and, apart from an incident in 2013 when he was knocked over by a bus, Cipriani has largely avoided the news pages and forced his way back into the England squad, although he was omitted for the World Cup.

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His exit after four seasons is a blow for the Sharks’ director of rugby, Steve Diamond, who helped Cipriani sort himself out, along with Jonny Wilkinson’s mentor, Steve Black, but being overlooked by the new England head coach, Eddie Jones, prompted the player to look elsewhere and he went for Wasps ahead of Harlequins.

Sale postponed their media conference on Tuesday for 24 hours to give them time to formulate their response to Cipriani’s move, coming only 12 months after the outside-half signed a new two-year contract. “We have the lowest budget in the Premiership but we have a good set of lads,” Diamond had said after the weekend victory over Exeter, their fourth in a row in the league. “Money does not come into it: we are only losing one or two players and we will be here as a highly competitive side for the foreseeable future.”

Yet Sale’s victory over Exeter was watched by 4,236 spectators. Two seasons ago, when they were playing at Wycombe, Wasps’ average crowd was not much greater and they were heavily in debt. Their move to Coventry has transformed the club and Cipriani will join a number of former Sale players at the Ricoh Arena, including Kearnan Myall, James Gaskell and Rob Miller, arriving at the same time as the hooker Tommy Taylor.


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