James Haskell has urged people to move on from Danny Cipriani’s conviction for common assault and resisting arrest in Jersey last week. His former Wasps teammate attended a Rugby Football Union (RFU) disciplinary hearing on Wednesday where he was found guilty of “conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game”, but escaped a ban and was given a warning over his future conduct.
Haskell says the furore around the incident has highlighted why players must remain “whiter than whiter” when socialising in public.
Gloucester and The Rugby Players’ Association had both been critical of the RFU’s decision to proceed with an RFU hearing Cipriani. The fly-half was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay a female police officer £250 by Jersey Magistrates’ Court, and subsequently docked an identical amount and instructed to complete 10 hours of community service following an internal investigation by his club.
But in the lead-up to the RFU hearing Haskell stopped short of criticising the union, but agreed that column inches and social media noise had prolonged the episode. “All these people who charge people are far better placed than me (to decide),” he said.
“If you do something – I make more mistakes than most, and have had my experiences with it – you have to deal with the consequences of it. But it is best to move on as there is a lot more to life than Danny Cipriani.
“I have spoken to him and he is good and looking forward to playing and I have been very impressed with how supportive Gloucester have been. It is unfortunate that when you have a profile, everything is times one million.”
Haskell believes that, much like the reaction to England cricketer Ben Stokes’ affray trial, outrage was stirred on social media by commentators, ex-players and fans who did not have the full facts.
“It’s just the oldest case of trial by social media,” he said. “Professional sport brings out the best and worst of people. We go mad at people chasing and hitting balls and get fired up about it and people put so much into it – Stokes was a great example – people were ready to throw him under the bus and it was the same with Danny.
“People love to hate him, but I know him as a good hard-woking guy and it is time to move on. It was time to move on an hour after the court case – but a few ex players and coaches threw him under the bus for easy headlines.”
However, while he is keen for rugby to move on from the Cipriani incident, Haskell does believe that players need to understand that they are under increased scrutiny due to the prevalence of social media.
“I think you’ve just got to understand that we live in a world now of the stitch-up, we live in the world of the easy win, we live in the world that everyone’s a paparazzi, everyone’s recording everything,” he said.
“You’ve just got to be whiter than white and don’t put yourself in those positions. But also, like Tiger Woods, don’t sell yourself as the perfect man because all you’ve got is a longer way to fall.
“Best just to be reasonably honest, because if you pretend to be something you’re not you’re going to be swiftly caught out.”
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Haskell added: “You’ve got a responsibility as a player to understand that people look up to you
“You’ve got the responsibility to do things, and I just think that everyone wants to catch you out now. That’s what I believe, and I think you have to be very concerned about how you conduct yourself in public, where you would go, what you would do.
“I’m a nobody, so God knows what actual famous people have to think about.”
The England flanker is an avid user of social media, but admitted he is cautious not to post anything that may show him with alcohol, especially during the season.
Haskell also revealed that he and fiancee, Chloe Madeley, have been joined by uninvited guests when out for dinner, while one over-zealous fan pushed him close to the edge at a university DJ gig when he refused to let go of his hand after shaking it.
“I try to be quite accommodating because we’re very privileged to have a situation where people actually want to have a photo with you,” he said. “But some people get a little bit carried away and grab you and push you and tap you and poke you and stuff, and you’re like ‘could you please not do that?’”
Northampton face Gloucester on the opening weekend of the Gallagher Premiership season, and with Cipriani and South African imports including Jaco Kriel and Franco Mostert on board, Haskell has been impressed with the Cherry and Whites’ recruitment.
“I think they’re having a re-birth,” he said. “They’ve signed a lot of quality players, they’re going to want to bring that physical edge, certainly with the South Africans involved and Danny pulling the strings in attack and the other good players that they’ve got.
“They are going to be dangerous, but tell me a team that isn’t looking dangerous.”
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