Gloucester boss says team’s heartbeat Cipriani best attacking 10 in England

From the moment pre-season began at Gloucester this summer, there has been a sense something special could be brewing in the West Country.

Gloucester boss says team’s heartbeat Cipriani best attacking 10 in England

By Simon Collings

From the moment pre-season began at Gloucester this summer, there has been a sense something special could be brewing in the West Country.

Their attendance for a friendly against Dragons in August summed up the excited mood as 9,790 fans turned up at Kingsholm Stadium.

One year earlier, for a doubleheader against Hartpury and Scarlets, just 3,071 were there.

Just as he will be this afternoon at Thomond Park against Munster, Danny Cipriani was the main attraction in August and in truth, he is a large reason behind the new found buzz around Gloucester.

The fly-half agreed to join the Cherry and Whites this summer on a two-year contract, which included him taking a pay cut to secure the deal.

Four other Premiership sides contacted the 30-year-old about a move, while he could have doubled his money by accepting lucrative offers from clubs in France and Japan.

Gloucester, however, were Cipriani’s first choice as he wanted to keep his England career alive with next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan looming.

The prospect of the fly-half appearing at that tournament may look bleak now after this week he was excluded from England’s squad for the upcoming Autumn Tests, with head coach Eddie Jones previously stating he is currently the third or fourth best player in his position.

Such a view is not shared by those at Gloucester, not least by director of rugby David Humphreys, who believes Cipriani is the best attacking 10 in the country.

“It’s not just what he’s brought in, but the confidence he’s given the players around him,” Humphreys told supporters at a Gloucester fan forum.

“It was one [deal] that when it first came up [head coach] Johan [Ackermann] and I had a long discussion about what we need as a team.

We just felt the opportunity to sign, in our view, the best-attacking number 10 in England to match the style of play we are trying to play, without all the other changes that are going there; he might be the big piece of the jigsaw that takes us from being a team that can be very good, but not so good, to very good. He can bring that consistency to our performance, so I’m delighted he’s here

Cipriani has certainly lived up to his billing at Gloucester and he has helped the side make a strong start to the season. After six games they sit fourth in the Premiership, with their new fly-half claiming the league’s Player of the Month award for September.

Their European campaign started with a victory too last week as they defeated Castres 19-14. Cipriani scored 14 points.

The 30-year-old has quickly become the team’s heartbeat, transforming the backline into a potent unit that can cause any defence problems.

Cipriani, as he has always been able to, has the ability to create openings and unlock defences when it seems as though nothing is on.

Naturally, for those playing outside him, it means there are plenty of tries to be had – provided you are on your toes.

“You have got to be mentally switched on and alert 24/7,” said wing Ollie Thorley.

“You have just got to be ready for anything, which is awesome. Expect the unexpected. We are all getting used to playing with each other, there are a few new players in the backline.

So we are still forming partnerships within the backline. But I think most of the time we are singing on the same hymn sheet and we are expecting Danny to pull out these moments of genius.”

While the likes of Thorley may gush about Cipriani’s talent on the pitch it is, as Humphreys pointed out, his mental qualities that are really having an impact at Gloucester.

Ever since he arrived at the club, the fly-half has raised the standards and pushed those around him to strive for perfection.

It was something Humphreys noticed when he first watched Cipriani train with the club and now the players are beginning to reap the benefits from his approach.

“We are not accepting just running through the motions,” said number eight Ben Morgan.

“We are trying to be the best we can be at every single opportunity that we have – and that is a real big driver.

“I would say Danny is a big, strong driver behind that as well and he is starting to ask a few questions.

“Questioning whether we can deliver excellence on each play and that is something everyone has really gotten behind, and we said: ‘Do you know what? This is something we can really improve our game on.’

“And it may be only those little single percentages, but you start to add those together and it is a big improvement across the board.”

How big an improvement? A trip to Thomond Park is the perfect place to found out.

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