Enduring the sort of scrutiny Tony Romo could never withstand, full back Danny Cipriani is under fire after being photographed outside a London nightclub last weekend. The Independent’s Chris Hewitt writes that Cipriani has been excused from England’s Saturday clash with Scotland, despite no evidence the Wasps starlet committed any crime beyond being out past his bedtime.
The England head coach, Brian Ashton, made the swiftest of decisions to cut Cipriani from his Six Nations side once a picture of his latest full-back emerging from a Mayfair club some 30 minutes after midnight hit the news-stands in the capital. He said the player had been guilty of “inappropriate behaviour” and added: “I will keep an open mind on selecting him for future games.”
This provoked a sulphurous response from Wasps, a club whose relationship with successive England coaches might best be described as uneasy. Their director of rugby, Ian McGeechan, one of the most respected figures in the world game, made no effort to conceal his displeasure at Cipriani’s treatment, saying: “We are hugely disappointed with the decision to withdraw Danny from the England team, and similarly disappointed for Danny himself. He was pictured outside a nightclub, where he had gone to see a friend. He did not stay inside the club for any length of time, and he was not drinking. He was at worst naÃ¯ve in his actions, but no more than that. Given the circumstances, a measured response was required. I think this is very harsh.”
Wasps insiders said that Cipriani was distraught at being turfed out of the team for doing nothing more heinous than deliver a handful of match tickets to friends before driving home. It was thought Ashton and McGeechan exchanged words over the decision to drop the youngster, but it was not clear whether the England coach spoke to the player at any serious length before making an example of him.
There is no direct precedent for such action. Dean Richards, one of the great No 8s in England rugby history and now the director of rugby at Harlequins, was once banned for a match after using the Calcutta Cup as a rugby ball in Edinburgh, but that incident happened after the match. Another No 8, Lawrence Dallaglio, was stripped of the national captaincy in 1999 after the News of the World lured him into a deeply embarrassing sex-and-drugs confession. Dallaglio, a current team-mate of Ciprian, was also fined before being fast-tracked back into the Test team in time for the World Cup later that year.