I played rugby for my school from the age of 11, and continued to play at University, followed by a couple of local club teams. Reasonable standard but nothing special, my complete lack of gas didn’t help! Growing up in Birmingham, Moseley was my closest big club, but also the main rivals at school boy level for the club I played for on a Saturday afternoon, so I struggled to get interested. Given I was playing most Saturdays anyway, morning and afternoon, I never really got the opportunity to get into a club side, and only ever followed the international scene, where at my level, kick off times were often changed to allow everyone to watch.
I stopped playing completely around ten years ago, as I approached the birth of our daughter. This was the ultimate deciding factor, but it had been coming. This was for a number of reasons really – I was doing a part time college course alongside a busy full time job, which in turn was reducing enormously my availability to train for games. I had gone from training with the club twice a week and going to the gym at least as many times, to struggling to reach half of that. It was showing in my performances on a Saturday, and I found myself embarrassed from being a regular first team starter to struggling to make the bench for the second xv in the space of 12 months. I made the call to get out, and though I have some regrets about this, the course I completed has helped my progress at work, and in turn provide for my family, so no real complaints.
I started following the club scene more closely in the 2007 – 2008 scene, and became drawn to Wasps. England were struggling a bit back then, Jonny Wilkinson didn’t look quite right following years of injury torment, and there was this young kid wearing 10 who just seemed on a different planet. Incredible gas, creative, and was helping Wasps play a brand of rugby that was in complete contrast to what England were serving up at that time. His name – Danny Cipriani.
I booked tickets in the March to go to my first club game, which was an Anglo-Welsh double header, which featured Wasps vs Leicester in Cardiff, when that tournament meant something. It was the week after he had starred for England on his first start vs Ireland, but I would still class myself as relatively neutral at that stage – we had booked tickets prior to knowing who was playing. That neutrality ceased around twenty minutes in, when I found myself jumping out of my seat when Danny Cipriani out of nowhere cut in from right to left, outpaced an England centre, and converted it from the corner for good measure. It’s the first try on this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPgIrcvHMhk
I’ve followed Wasps and his career ever since. I was at Adams Park a few months later when he suffered a horrific injury, and at the Ricoh for his first game back for Wasps a few years on.
As his time at Wasps draws to an end, I’m going to make a bold statement. Danny Cipriani will go down as one of England’s most talented ever players, and I feel it is a loss for the national team that he has never been trusted enough to be given a proper run at ten. This season he has been incredible, bringing a level of consistency to his play that has been unrivalled in his position this term. He will be missed for Wasps and I hope he and his team mates can stay injury free to guide him to a fitting finale at Twickenham, a ground where he simply has not had sufficient opportunity to showcase his abilities.
To finish off with, I mentioned my son and his cheeky personality in the previous blog, here he is leaving Danny hanging in his efforts to engage with him before the first game of the season! My wife was mortified, she’s a fan too! Danny Cipriani, whatever the future holds for you, thank you for getting me into premiership club rugby and Wasps.