Danny Cipriani is Marmite to some people but for up-and-coming Gloucester fly-half George Barton, the mercurial No.10 is the ideal man to learn off.
Barton, who, like his mentor-in-chief, might have played football professionally had rugby not been his passion, explains why he is lapping up everything he can from Cipriani as he aims to build on a campaign that has seen him playing for England U20s.
Barton, 19, said: “Danny’s such a good person to go to and I’m always getting little pointers off him over how he sees the game. I’m trying to pick his brains and we’ll do some analysis together as I try to build a good relationship with him as a fellow fly-half.
“When I’ve been around first team training you can see how much of a leader he is and how clear he is over messages. He runs a lot of training himself and is so special with the backs and the way he helps you – it almost feels like he’s a player-coach at times.
“I’ve never experienced it before to that extent and if he goes into coaching one day, I’ve got no doubts at all that he’ll make a really good job of it.”
As a local boy, playing for Gloucester is all Barton has ever aspired to do.
He explained: “I played my junior rugby at Longlevens RFC but I was a decent footballer as well and Cheltenham Town offered me something when I was younger. I had a choice but rugby is what I’ve always wanted to do and it has been my real passion.
“I was 12 when I attended my first Gloucester trial and I got into their DPP programme at U14s, so I’ve been with them quite a while and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.
“Getting my first team debut against London Irish at Kingsholm at the start of this season was pretty surreal because the crowd there is always unbelievable. To run out there was amazing and then to do it again for England U20s last week was brilliant as well.
“Representing your country, running out at Kingsholm, I don’t think you could ask for more. It really was a dream come true so, hopefully, I can build on that now, work hard and get some more opportunities for Gloucester’s first team and England.”
Aside from his Gloucester commitments, Barton has been learning his trade at National One outfit Cinderford, who have a record in aiding the development of other top-class players.
Barton added: “Cinderford are a good bunch who have been really supportive for me. They’ve been happy to give me the opportunity to express myself and lead the team.
“One of my main work-ons this season was to really step up as a leader and I feel I’ve made good progress. Guys like Henry Trinder and Josh Adams played there as well once, so hopefully I can follow in their footsteps and keep going in the right direction.”
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