Following the latest in a string of “discipline breaches” culminating in his omission from the squad travelling to South Africa, Melbourne Rebels Chief Executive Ross Oakley admitted that the club have “lost confidence” with the fly half, and his future now appears to be in doubt.
Although it would be a sad end to another chapter in the talented 23-year-old’s career, unfortunately he only has himself to blame. Heading Down Under to, in his own words, “escape the negativity surrounding him”, ill discipline and bad press appear to have followed him onto the plane. Despite his intentions, things have not gone to plan for a player so wonderfully talented, yet so frustratingly irresponsible.
Despite his commitment on the field, Cipriani appears listless and wayward off it. After sacrificing a comfy place at Wasps in a bold move, it is hard to comprehend such consistent rule breaking. Fined for taking a bottle of vodka in a local nightclub, he promised to “stand down” should any more incidents arise, something he fulfilled last week after a curfew breach. For a fresh start it all sounds very familiar.
His performances have only highlighted what a waste a premature exit would be. Blessed with a vision that belies his age, Cipriani has shown extended glimpses of his ability during his short stay. Amassing an impressive 91 points in only ten Super 15 appearances, performance has certainly not been the issue. Yet instead of a growing reputation, his promising start lies in tatters thanks to a consistent disregard for his reputation and, more importantly, his team. Crucially, Oakley admitted that both “the playing group and management” were behind his omission from the South Africa tour, an indication of his waning popularity amongst the team.
Even an international career seems scant motivation to the enigmatic fly half. After being dropped for a nightclub incident even before his first test start, Cipriani’s England career has been turbulent to say the least. Despite not picking him, Martin Johnson made clear his intentions to consider Cipriani should he remain in England. But The Rebels won his signature and he departed, not interested in adding to add to his seven caps for the time being. Whilst the door ought to remain open should he return home, a blatant snub is hard to forget.
What is certain is that he is threatening to derail the most promising of careers. Despite possessing a bewitching talent and still being in the Spring of his career, Cipriani could find himself without a club and shunned by his country at only 23, something that would be a great shame for him and the game of rugby. Despite his evident and ongoing problems with attitude, the original Melbourne Rebel is too bright a star for that.