It’s great to see Danny Cipriani back in the Premiership but his move to Bath will have widened the divide in the West Country even further.
Bath fans may have a few question marks given his age and the reputation he has off the field but they should be really excited about his arrival. Gloucester fans, on the other hand, will be wondering what’s going on.
To go from describing George Skivington’s appointment at the end of June as “the most exciting announcement of a head coach I have seen in rugby” to leaving six months later and then describing their biggest rivals Bath as a club that “has a clear ambition and drive that aligns with my own” another three months on has to raise eyebrows.
We know things went south rapidly for him at the Cherry and Whites for one reason or another but the Shedheads will be scratching their heads and it’ll certainly add a bit more spice to the West Country derbies next season.
It was obviously a different situation but I left London Irish and retired in good faith before coming back to play for Newcastle towards the end of that same season. I gave Irish first refusal when I came back, though, and they said no and were happy for me to sign for Falcons.
I can’t imagine that has been the case with Cipriani and Gloucester but the similarities will come when the derby happens next season especially. There was a big media storm around me when Newcastle faced London Irish and the former stayed up and the latter went down.
You can multiply that by a fair amount for Danny given his profile and the nature of the rivalry between the two clubs but he’s used to the spotlight.
It has to be said that this is also something of a marriage of convenience as well given that Cipriani won’t have to move and, bar going abroad, Bath and Newcastle were perhaps the only Premiership clubs that were really in the market for a fly half for next season.
It’ll be interesting to see how Cipriani and Bath fit together because they had a fly half with a reputation as an attacking maverick in Freddie Burns and that relationship didn’t end well under Stuart Hooper and the current management.
Cipriani is also a very different type of fly half to Rhys Priestland, who is off to Cardiff Blues next season, so the shift in the way they play will be interesting to watch.
He made 50 passes that led to a break in his 35 Premiership games for Gloucester, which is a massive 17 more than any other player in the whole league during his time there, and nobody can better his 21 try assists during that period of time either.
There’s no doubting his talent or his ability to get a backline firing so it’s hugely exciting with some of the names he’ll have outside him in terms of the likes of Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Cameron Redpath, Ruaridh McConnochie, Joe Cokanasiga and others.
He will want to run that backline to a greater extent than other fly halves but that might not be a bad thing given Bath have underperformed in recent years when you look at the amount of ability they have in their squad.
Ultimately, he may be turning 34 at the start of next season but Bath fans will rightly be dreaming of where he’ll be able to take them, while Gloucester fans will be looking at their team sat 11th in the Premiership and wondering what went so wrong for him to be turning out in blue, black and white next season.
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