Oval Talk

Is Cipriani ready for homecoming?

Oval Talk

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His return to English rugby may have been announced back in March and there has been a fair bit of talking done since then, but the task at hand started in earnest last week when Danny Cipriani reported for pre-season training with his new club Sale Sharks.

After an 'exile' from the English domestic rugby scene which lasted almost two years, the 24-year-old stated this week that he is targeting a recall to the national set-up as a "long-term goal" - and England coach Stuart Lancaster was not shy in admitting his satisfaction that the former Wasps player would be coming back to the Premiership to ply his trade when it was confirmed.

Indeed, it was following a discussion with the then interim England coach that Cipriani's enthusiasm for a return was cemented, having collected his last international cap in November 2008.

In the wake of the confirmation he would be leaving the Melbourne Rebels earlier this year Cipriani said he "just wanted to make the news for what I do on the rugby field", and that "I've got quite a lot to prove to myself as I know where I can be and what I can do".

He went to Australia to try and do that, and it turned out not to be a particularly successful attempt at distancing himself from the kind of antics that earned him a certain level of notoriety in England prior to his departure.

He also said at the time of his stint Down Under that "I think I will be coming back as a better player and a better person for the experience of playing with Melbourne. I've done a lot of different things in the 18 months I've been out in Australia, and it has all been part of growing up, I guess".

That sentiment could be construed in a number of ways, but it must now surely be time to give Cipriani the fresh start that he obviously craves.

Just last week Oval Talk discoursed on London Welsh's then imminent signing of Gavin Henson, a player with a similarly chequered off-the-field history, and pondered the question of whether the 30-year-old really was deserving of another shot for various reasons.

The opinion on Cipriani, at least from OT's perspective, is that at just 24 the precociously talented youngster can learn from his previous experiences, and it will be interesting to see just how formative his spell in Australia really was. We hope, for the sake of youth and promise, that the sounds he has made about his learning curve during his time at Melbourne prove to ring true, and not be mere hollow noise.

How long it will be before Lancaster considers Cipriani a worthy inclusion in his squad will be determined by the player's re-adaptation to life in the Premiership. As such a genuine talent, let us hope that he manages this sooner - and with a notable degree of maturity - rather than later.

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