By Tom Bradshaw
Danny Cipriani arrived at Kingsholm via a surfing holiday in Malibu – and the playmaker is confident Gloucester is the place for him to carry on riding the wave that he hopes will take him all the way to Japan.
Cipriani, who admits to having received his share of stick from The Shed in the past, says his goal at Gloucester is to make the town proud and get Kingsholm jumping.
And if he does that, then he hopes he will be in the reckoning for a key role in England’s World Cup campaign in Japan.
Cipriani, who received his 15th England cap in the 25-10 win over South Africa in June, spent his off-season by the beach in California. But he was far from inactive, instead working on his explosive strength through some underwater training, and also taking to the surf.
Now he says he is seeking to take his game to the next level with the help of Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann and director of rugby David Humphreys.
“The South Africa tour was a great experience, I felt like I learned a lot,” said Cipriani, who guided Wasps to a Premiership semi-final last term. “But that’s also in the past now and for me it’s the excitement of how I can improve and get better every day.
“I can definitely learn a lot from Johan, he’s an innovative coach and I’ve had some great conversations with him so far. And with David having been a fly-half it’s great to talk to him and bounce ideas off.
“For me, my philosophy hasn’t changed. I’m here trying to become a better rugby player and within this group there’s an opportunity to do so. I need to keep learning and play well. Right now I’m in the England squad, and I’ve got to do everything I can to stay there.”
Cipriani revealed he had been approached by five Premiership clubs towards the end of last season.
“When I got announced in the (England) squad, that day my agent had calls from four different Premiership teams, excluding Gloucester. For me it was about meeting Johan and David because I could see the talent they had on paper, and meeting those guys I knew it was the right decision for me.
“We’ve obviously got a terrific backline but for me I always look at the pack – we’ve got some big bruisers, some great talent and some experienced older heads.”
Cipriani admitted he was looking forward to having The Shed on his side rather than on his case.
“When I was younger I was a bit of a target. I got the basic abuse – the usual, shouting out ex-girlfriend names – just stuff that made me laugh really. It’s such a tradition, The Shed, and I’m definitely going to be playing up to it, giving it the big ones and kissing the badge when I score!
“I was excited to come here because of the players, and the coaching staff have made me feel very welcome.
“I’ll really try to do something special for this town because as soon as you start getting on a roll the whole of Gloucester goes crazy. I want to do everything I can to make the town proud.”
Head coach Ackermann drew reference to his former charge at the Lions, Elton Jantjies, when discussing Cipriani’s enigmatic makeup and that he will encourage Cipriani’s creative penchant.
“If you are always going to be conservative, I doubt if you are going to win tournaments,” said the 48-year-old coach.
“Sometimes you need to try stuff and players need to respond around you. Both Danny and Elton aren’t scared to try things. As 10s, they know how to recognise space and have freedom to play to that but, most of all, they like to have an attacking mindset.”
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