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‘He’s a new man’ – Johan Ackermann commends Cipriani and Gloucester

Gloucester fly-half Danny Cipriani

Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann has praised the club’s drive to promote mental health and support Danny Cipriani.

Last week the fly-half addressed the life experiences which have had a long-term effect on his own mental well-being following the suicide of close friend Caroline Flack.

In a 17-minute long video, Cipriani opened up on how the abandonment of his father at the age of 10 continues to incite negative thoughts within his mind, almost driving him to suicide in his early 20s.

No stranger to the vindictiveness of social media, Cipriani’s story was supported by Gloucester who announced tonight’s match at Kingsholm against Sale Sharks will raise awareness of mental health and promote the #BeKind campaign.

For Ackermann, he wants no player within his squad to know they are alone.

“The biggest thing for me is healthy players and I’m not talking about physical health but mental health and being able to respect each other,” said Ackermann.

“And when you go through a tough time to realise you don’t have to do it on your own and obviously you hope you can help but if you can’t help I always say there must be somebody, whether it’s a close friend or a psychologist or a mentor that you trust and that you can share with and deal with things.

“I’m proud of the club, I’m proud of every player in the squad, how they’ve embraced this and made it good for us to grow as men.

“You have to grow as a person, not just on the rugby field but off the field as well.

“A lot of players this season have had to deal with stuff off the field that people won’t know about.

“If you keep emotions inside you deal with it the wrong way so it’s a great initiative from the club and hopefully through that we’ll get players to realise where we have to be physical and strong but there are times in life you have to acknowledge you need somebody to talk to and get emotions out of you.”

Ackermann has seen a growth in Cipriani in the wake of a personal tragedy.

“He’s a new man. He’s been really positive and his emotions are in a good place,” Ackermann commented.

“He’s accepted what happened and taken a lesson out of that and he’s been great around training and his attitude.

“Sometimes life brings you back to reality and what’s important. And I think he realised how important the team and the people around the team is and the unity and people just backing each other and looking after each other and talking about things you maybe struggled in the past, that openness.

“Credit to Danny, he was willing to share a lot of things and get it out there and now it’s time to focus on the rugby and be positive.”

Cipriani will start at fly-half for tonight’s match and will be joined by his teammates in wearing a black armband embroidered with the words ‘Be Kind’.

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