Premiership - Wasps confirm Cipriani departure

Eurosport - Fri, 19 Feb 11:47:00 2010

Wasps have confirmed that Danny Cipriani will leave the Guinness Premiership club at the end of the season to join new Australian side Melbourne Rebels.

Danny Cipriani - Wasps - 0

The 22-year-old fly-half's future at Wasps has been the subject of speculation since reports earlier this month linking him with the Rebels, the new Australian franchise that will see the Super 14 become Super 15 next season.

Cipriani has fallen out of favour with the England management since winning the last of his seven caps against South Africa in November 2008, and the maverick England Saxons back said that he hopes the move will ultimately earn him a recall to Martin Johnson's elite squad.

"I have been given no indication that I am pushing for a place with England at the moment so it is up to me to ensure I am in contention in the future by challenging myself in new realms," Cipriani said in a statement.

"I have some of the best coaches and players in the game around me at Wasps, which is why it has been so hard to make my decision, but I am still young enough to go away and experience something completely different.

"I want to be the best player I can be and this is a huge challenge and opportunity to test myself, on and off the pitch, because it will be changing everything I know.

"Moving to Australia will be a new challenge. I have always admired the Super 14 as a tournament and the first team I ever followed was Wellington. I think the opportunity of playing in a completely different tournament against different players at this time in my career will help me develop on and off the field."

For the short term at least, Cipriani's England future would appear to be on hold. Last week, when asked whether it would be possible for Cipriani to be part of the England squad when based in Melbourne, Johnson said: "No of course it's not.

"The seasons are the same. They are playing through February and March so he wouldn't be available for England during the Six Nations.

"It is impossible for him to play for England in the Six Nations if he is over there. I am sure he understands that."

Cipriani (pictured) becomes the second high-profile player this week to announce his departure from Wasps after England wing Paul Sackey confirmed he would be joining Top 14 club Toulon next season.

But director of rugby Tony Hanks said that Wasps are hopeful Cipriani would return to the club in the future.

"Obviously we are disappointed that Danny is leaving, especially as he has worked hard on a return to form on the back of a couple of nasty injuries," Hanks said.

"However, knowing his reasons are based on rugby and personal development, we as a club support his decision.

"Working with him for the last few weeks around this decision, we have looked at it more as a Wasp going on a sabbatical and, whilst nothing is guaranteed, Danny has expressed a desire to return to the club later down the line.

"I certainly believe this sort of sabbatical period is becoming more accepted in rugby, as we have seen in recent years - a prime example being All Black Luke McAlister.

"It was something that was more common in the amateur era and something that we used to encourage with high profile English cases including Martin Johnson, who travelled to New Zealand and played for the New Zealand U21s, and a number of others like Matt Dawson."

A product of the Wasps academy, Cipriani became the youngest player to play in the Premiership when he made his Wasps 1st XV debut aged just 17 in December 2004.

Having earned a spot in Brian Ashton's 2008 Six Nations squad, he then suffered a double fracture of his ankle in May which put him out of action for nearly six months.

Cipriani returned to claim a spot in the England squad for the 2008 autumn internationals when Jonny Wilkinson was sidelined, but many believe he has not been the same player since suffering the career-threatening injury.

Terence O'RORKE / Eurosport

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