Cipriani defends under-fire England stars
November 27, 2011
Barbarians fly-half Danny Cipriani steps inside Australia's Rob Horne during the clash at Twickenham © Getty Images
Headline-grabbing Melbourne Rebels fly-half Danny Cipriani has leapt the to the defence of England's World Cup squad and declared the players' infamous drunken night out in Queenstown was not "that irresponsible".
Mike Tindall was fined £25,000 and dropped from the England squad for events surrounding that evening, when a number of players reportedly indulged in drinking games. The level of drinking has been criticised by some players in anonymous feedback leaked to The Times this week, while others saw no problem with it.
Cipriani has experienced his own drink-related disciplinary issues over the last year and recognises the need for players to strike the right balance. But the maverick playmaker claimed the whole issue has been overplayed because England's campaign, described in one leaked report as "doomed from the start", ended in failure.
"Having heard from certain people inside the camp, I think the stories get embellished a bit and things get looked at a lot worse," Cipriani said. "When you're so intensively working - you're waking up at 6am - you've got to do this protein shake, you've got to have that breakfast, and you're so focused, you're away from your family, the pressures of being involved in a camp and being away the whole time - sometimes truly the best way to bond is to go out together.
"Not necessarily to go out and get wasted, or drink excessively but it is a pastime and it's part of rugby and that's a tradition I don't think should ever fail. Ninety nine percent of the time it's responsibly done and I don't think it was that irresponsible for it to happen in the World Cup, it was just blown out of proportion.
"If you look at the facts it wasn't as bad as it was [made out]. You've got to have some sort of sympathy with the guys because they didn't quite get as far as they [could] have so they (the media) are going to try and find some sort of excuse."
The squad had been given permission to go out in Queenstown the evening after beating Argentina and the England management set up a tab in the bar where the night began. A group of players later moved on to a back-packers bar, which was hosting a "dwarf-racing" competition and where Tindall was captured on CCTV in conversation with a woman.
Cipriani was fined by the Melbourne Rebels in March for allegedly helping himself to a bottle of vodka in a bar, an incident he later described as a "silly prank". In May, Cipriani was dropped by the Rebels and told he had "lost the confidence of the club's entire playing group" for staying out late following an away match against the Waratahs.
The 24-year-old has admitted letting the Rebels down at times last year but vowed "next year will be different". Pre-season has already begun and Cipriani said he did not drink during his week with the notoriously social Barbarians. The England recall Cipriani cites as his driving force is unlikely to happen until he returns to the Aviva Premiership and he revealed there are already a number of potential suitors.
"Obviously it would be difficult for any coach to pick me for the Six Nations but I'd still love to be involved," Cipriani said. "There's discussions to have on whether I can play over there and still play for England or if I have to come back.
"[It's] a discussion to have with the England coach at the time, see what his thoughts are, if he wants me back then for sure. I've heard from clubs in London and some in the south west and some from up north actually. Obviously, I'd still love to be playing for England so it just depends what's happening over these next couple of weeks and these next months - it's big for everyone."
Cipriani relished his opportunity to work with World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry, who had some words of encouragement for England's maverick fly-half. "People deserve a second chance. We don't want to hang him for previous offences. He's done his time. Now you give him a bit of space and see how he responds," Henry said. "He just needs some time and experience. But I think he's got good natural skill, he's got some confidence in his own ability.
"I was talking John Gallagher during the week, who was a great player himself, and he said he saw a game here a couple of years ago when England played Ireland and he was the best player on the field. He thinks he's got tons of ability. If you want him to play for England, just give him a bit of space and see how he plays. Jumping on at him and saying he can't do this, he can't do that, he won't do this, that's the very reason he won't play for England."
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