Wallaby James O’Connor’s temporary move to five-eighth is set to become more permanent with the Melbourne Rebels’ regular No.10 Danny Cipriani to return to England.
The 24-year-old confirmed he had signed a three-year deal with the Sale Sharks, who play in the England competition, leaving at the end of this Super Rugby season.
Cipriani has always made clear his desire to resurrect his Test career, which stalled on seven Tests after falling out with then coach Martin Johnson.
The gifted back’s prodigious rugby talents have been overshadowed by off-field disciplinary issues and he was suspended for a month during his first season in Melbourne while, at times, he has also struggled in defence.
Cipriani said he remained “100 per cent committed” to playing out the season for the winless Rebels.
“Learning a lot from the coaches. The playing group is very tight and continues to build,” he said on Twitter.
“The Melbourne Rebels is a great club and will give it my all for the rest of the season.”
O’Connor started at No.10 last Sunday in their last-ditch loss to the Cheetahs with Cipriani on the bench, although coach Damien Hill indicated the Brit was likely to return to the starting line-up for their match on Friday night with the Western Force, giving the side two quality playmakers.
The Rebels said the popular Cipriani, who was their leading point-scorer in 2011, went with their blessing.
“It was a tremendous coup for the club to sign a player of Danny’s calibre and, like all of our players, Danny has played an important part in our short history,” said club CEO Steve Boland.
“However, we have always understood and supported his desire to return to the English national team and we hope that this move will help Danny achieve this goal.”
Sale also announced the move on their website.
“He feels Sale gives him the best opportunity to fulfil his aspirations to be England’s number one fly-half,” said Sharks chief executive Steve Diamond.
“Danny has been targeted by many European clubs but has chosen to be based in Manchester.”