Cipriani the flop can't even make the bench for Sale as Mitchell shakes things up
22:30 GMT, 21 December 2012
Axed: Cipriani's form is woeful
Danny Cipriani’s turbulent career took another severe hit on Friday when he was left out of Sale’s crucial Aviva Premiership trip to old club Wasps on Sunday.
The 25-year-old is the biggest casualty of a new regime imposed by the uncompromising John Mitchell, the former All Blacks coach, to try to lift the relegation-threatened club.
Cipriani joined Sale last summer and had hopes of an England recall, but has lost his place to Nick Macleod, who is seen as more reliable and sturdy in tight contests.
His demise has prompted talk of Sale trying to move him on, despite having signed a three-year deal.
Mitchell has decided Cipriani’s form is so poor that he cannot even gain a place on the bench. He prefers South African journeyman Corne Uys as back-up to Macleod. Cipriani’s undoing seems to be his oft-criticised tackling, which was exposed in the 62-0 trouncing by Toulon, the French big spenders, last Sunday in the Heineken Cup.
Mitchell, who joined last month as a consultant, made spiky comments after the game, questioning one or two of his new players’ attitudes.
‘Some of the characters have been revealed,’ he said of a squad who were expected to challenge for honours.
Now, after a disastrous first four months, Sale, six points adrift, must win their next two games against moderate Wasps on Sunday, and at home to Worcester next Friday to give themselves hope in 2013.
Sale watchers believe that Mitchell has decided Cipriani has been given every opportunity to prove his worth by starting 11 games, while injury-hit Macleod has begun only six.
Humiliation: Sale were hammered by Toulon in the Heineken Cup
Turbulent times of a rugby rebel
2006: Joins Wasps after glittering schoolboy career.
Mar 2008: Picked for England v Scotland in Six Nations but omitted for ‘inappropriate behaviour’ after attending a nightclub before match.
Oct 2008: Alleged training ground fight at Wasps involving Josh Lewsey.
Feb 2010: Complaints from management about behaviour on England Saxons trip to Italy. Joins Melbourne Rebels.
Feb 2011: Accused of taking a bottle of vodka from behind a bar. Docked match fee by Rebels and dropped for three games.
Aug 2012: Returns to Sale.
A hint of Mitchell’s thinking came 10
days ago before Sale played their home European pool game against
Toulon. Mitchell initially picked Rob Miller at fly-half only for
Cipriani, who had been ill, to be called up in a reshuffle the day
Cipriani looked to have made a decent impression, and he appeared
optimistic after the narrow 17-6 defeat and talked about thriving in
Mitchell’s ‘new beginning’.
But that was before the trip to Toulon where Sale subsided after
half-time to concede nine tries in all. ‘I certainly know a lot more
about some individuals after that performance,’ added Mitchell.
Cipriani seems to have taken his omission from a return to his old club
philosophically, judging by tweets to his 270,000 followers.
He wrote on Thursday: ‘If you got to over think, is it right If the
issue has to be forced, is it right If it falls on deaf ears, what do
you do #life.’
Philosophical: The former Wasps fly half has failed to live up to his potential
For Sale, the Cipriani issue is a sideshow to a terrible season that started with a 43-6 hammering at Exeter.
After they lost at home to promoted London Welsh three games later,
forwards coach Steve Scott was dismissed. Bryan Redpath, the new
director of rugby, was about to be demoted in a shake-up carried out by
chief executive Steve Diamond.
Diamond talked about bringing in a ‘yard dog’ to give Sale more bite and
recruited Mitchell, who was a player-coach at the club 14 years ago, to
help a new management team.
But the link-up might come to an end in February if Mitchell, who has
ties in South Africa, takes up television work for the Super 15 season.
Sale have had a round of cost-cutting while back-room officials were
embroiled in a row on Friday with supporters who complained they had
been abused by a staff member on Facebook for moaning too much. ‘Utter
shambles,’ retorted a fan.