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Ian McGeechan on why axing Danny Cipriani became the making of the maverick's Wasps career

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Former Lions coach Ian McGeechan has recalled the coaching tactics he used to coax the best from Danny Cipriani during the maverick’s breakthrough season at Wasps. Cipriani initially had trouble becoming a team player, but he finished out the 2006/07 season at full-back and was crowned a Heineken European Cup winner.


Now at Gloucester following a lengthy career that has seen him also play for Melbourne Rebels and Sale, Cipriani’s first stint at Wasps under McGeechan (he rejoined in 2016 under Dai Young) was, in the beginning, a case of trial and error.

Reflecting on the emergence of Cipriani at the then Adams Park-based club, McGeechan sifted through his management of the 2006/07 season which culminated in Wasps defeating Leicester at Twickenham in the European decider. 

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Speaking on The Champions Rugby Show, McGeechan explained how he got the best out of Cipriani who at the time was relatively new to the senior set-up at the English Premiership club.

“That was the year his first game for Wasps was against London Irish and it was a bit like the Danny Cipriani show, he was doing long passes overhead. At half-time I said to Danny, ‘You’re not playing to make the team work’ and I brought him off,” recalled McGeechan. 

“For the next four, five games maybe, I made him watch and when Alex King, who had been injured was fit again, I said I’m going to play you a full-back Danny because from full-back you can see what’s needed at 10, how you bring players in and how you manage the game. 


“Danny played at full-back and in that European Cup-winning year ended up playing the whole season at full-back and played outstandingly well.

“He had to understand what his priorities were and the impact he can have on a team. But also you wanted feedback off him on how he sees things because you have got players who are very talented who see things early. 

“Very good players in their head see things early and react quicker than other players, and it’s being able to get that feedback of information, how they see it and what can be done. 

“In a way, I had it a little bit with Gregor Townsend. Gregor just saw things so quickly that he was way ahead of some of the players around him sometimes, and it was just actually making him realise, look sometimes you’re just going to have to hold onto something or just delay something until you get the right support or the right angle from somebody else to be able to do something with it and just delay the pass. 


“And Danny was the same. He then came through and the following year (2007/08) he played exceptionally well at 10 and then broke his ankle, unfortunately. But he also got picked with England and his performance against Ireland at Twickenham, it was one of the most complete 10 performances at international level that I have ever seen. 

“I thought he was absolutely superb that day. In his head he knew what he was doing, he was doing it at the right time and he had a game where the quickness of his thinking was just making things work. That, from a distance as a coach, is the satisfaction you get when you see that coming out of a player.”


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