We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to speak to England & Gloucester’s Danny Cipriani, thanks to Jeep. Danny speaks about Johann Ackerman, his time with England and preview the Rugby World Cup Final between England and South Africa.
Rugby Inside Line: During your time playing for England, you played under three different head coaches. How does the Eddie Jones era differ from the eras of Johnson and Lancaster?
Danny Cipriani: I feel like Martin and Stuart were very worried about the media and outside influence and Eddie isn’t. Eddie doesn’t really care about that; he just wants to win.
RIL: Have England players been aware of Eddie’s long-term strategy over the last four years, or have games been taken one match or block at a time?
Danny Cipriani: I am sure Eddie has had a plan, and when things go your way it is easy to say this was your plan when it starts planning out. He has definitely been gearing up to the World Cup and he has been very single minded in what he has been doing and his selections for how he has prepared. It was their best performance under him against New Zealand, they stopped New Zealand from playing. It’s now about him making sure they can back it up for the following week.
RIL: Over the course of your career you have played at Wasps, the Rebels, Sale and now Gloucester. Johann Ackerman played a key part in the resurrection of South African rugby through his time at the Lions. What do you feel he has added to the Gloucester squad which saw you make your first playoff spot last season since 2010/11?
Danny Cipriani: I think Johan cares a lot about people, he’s got a very big heart and he is not a traditional coach. There are ways you can get results, you can be militant, tell people what to do, you can shout, you can be rude, you can be as you are, in history you’ve had coaches like that. Johan is a very peoples person and he cares, he truly wants people to become better men, not just rugby players, so he takes an invested interest in players and developing that side of things. Through that, you also get an invested performance and Johan hopes that once you stop playing for him, you’re going to want to go have a beer with him and chat with him because he’s had a big impact on your life, not just your rugby career, he’s really made you think about certain things. Especially in the English culture where we can be very stiff upper lipped and don’t want to talk about things, whereas he is very open and honest about things and he allows people to voice whatever they might have and with that comes a guy who builds a lot of comradery.
RIL: Do you feel like he is someone who is really invested in you in terms of your life outside of rugby?
Danny Cipriani: Yeah he does that for his squad for sure. He brings in leadership coaches, he brings in people who come and speak to us, he always checks on us and makes sure we are grateful for the position we are in. As well, his message is play to inspire, he wants us to inspire the city of Gloucester, he wants us to inspire this place by what we do on the field.
RIL: You faced South Africa three times in your career. How would you describe your encounters with the Springboks?
Danny Cipriani: From all the Springboks players I have either spoken too, played with or played against, they definitely have in their time had a very structured way of playing and they are all about physicality and trying to win the physical battle. Not too many nuances to their game. But then you look at the likes of Willie Le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe and Faf De Klerk, you have three players there that aren’t traditionally South African players. They look a bit different in the way they move and play and they obviously bring a bit of balance to the squad but there’s still that physicality and aggression they play with a complete passion that I guess is unheralded because of the tradition of their country.
RIL: Looking at their personnel, South Africa obviously have some big players as well as some pretty nifty ones. Which players do you feel England may want to avoid on the pitch this weekend?
Danny Cipriani: No one, there won’t be anyone they will try and avoid because England will bring an all court game plan. It’ll be about trying to stop them playing and implement your game plan on them.
RIL: And what about for you personally, anyone you’d want to avoid or just crack on?
Danny Cipriani: No just get on with it!
RIL: You must obviously be disappointed to have missed out on the World Cup. This weekend a further eight members of the squad will miss out on the World Cup final. What do you think is the best way to deal with a squad emission? You notably went on holiday to LA this summer but you are now back playing and focused on getting Gloucester into the top 4. What works for you?
Danny Cipriani: I think it is individual, its all personal. There’s stuff you’ve got to go through and learn and deal with and understand it is someone’s selection and on any given day anyone can beat anyone on a day, you just have to get everything right and whether you are involved or not, you’ve just got to make sure you can be the best version of yourself and keep turning up. It’s been well documented the times I haven’t been picked. I am always in the conversation of being one of the best players in the league so I’ve just got to keep doing that.
RIL: As mentioned earlier, you spent time at the Melbourne Rebels. Would you recommend other players in England look to have a spell abroad in order to develop their game? What did you learn from your time spent there?
Danny Cipriani: I went abroad because I needed a break from England. But once again it is all personal, if people want to go abroad and experience different things then definitely go and do it. Rugby’s a short career, you don’t want to atone or play to the story or character people are trying to write about you, whatever you want to write about it’s your career and your finish. If that is being a one club man or whatever you attach too, you go and run with that. Along the way you’ve got to make sure you’re happy with what you want to do, some rugby players want to try and be the best they can be and turn up and do the extras and work as hard as they can, some sportsmen or rugby players are happy just to come to work and go home after, just depends on their motivation.
RIL: Did you find then at Melbourne Rebels there was a lot of things you took away from there and brought back to your game in England or was it just a different experience but not necessarily things you’d bring back to your game here?
Danny Cipriani: Yeah I learnt a lot form Andrew Johns, he is a rugby league half back, he coached us half backs for a bit and some of our ball playing. I learnt a lot from him in that sense and there was a lot of things I learnt in terms of what to do or what not want to do on a coaching basis, or where you need to take control if it’s not being controlled and how you can drive a team if it is not quite being done by a coach so there is a lot you can learn in that way.
RIL: Looking back at England, which young uncapped English players would you recommend people look out for in the next four years?
Danny Cipriani: Four years is a long time! Obviously, I think with Sean Long at Quins and I think with Paul Gustard, I think you’ve got two very good coaches who have been there and done it. Obviously Longy in a different sport but in terms what he can impart on Marcus Smith in terms of ball playing and how to make good decisions, he was one of the greatest doing it in League so I think with Marcus’s ability, he’s going to get a lot of game time as a young player and it’s only going to benefit him and he will learn so much so I hope he gets to get the ability to really reflect and play and grow in the way that he needs too to be the best he can be.
RIL: Finally, what is your prediction for the weekend?
Danny Cipriani: I think England will win; they’ve shown they have got enough to stop teams from playing and I think it’ll be interesting. I think it will be closer than that game against New Zealand.
RIL: Do you think they will go with the same combination with Ford at 10 and Farrell at 12?
Danny Cipriani: Hmmm, probably, I think they are in the position now where they can just build on it. It is tough to say, I don’t really know. Australia prepared terribly for that game and England completely outplayed New Zealand.
RIL: Yeah, they did, it was an interesting one as some people in the media said New Zealand under prepared for that game. Do you think that is the case or do you think they were just dominated by England?
Danny Cipriani: I don’t think you can disrespect their coaches and their consistency of what they are like. I think Eddie understands and he is very smart in what he has. He has a group of players who are unbelievably hungry and unbelievably determined, they were able to stop New Zealand from scoring any points really. I think John Mitchell had a big role in that, he has played New Zealand a few times now and his defence hasn’t leaked many points. I think you need to give a lot of credit to John Mitchell and what he is doing and the way he is involved as a coach and how he’s come in, he’s been pretty awesome and probably hasn’t got enough credit as he could get.
RIL: Great, well thanks a lot Danny it has been great to talk to you and gain an insight into Gloucester and your thoughts on England, many thanks.
Danny Cipriani: No worries, thanks a lot.
Danny Cipriani was taking place in the Jeep Wrangler Trick Shot Challenge. Learn the skills to carry out your own challenge here: www.jeep.co.uk/news/trickshot
Photos: Jed Leicester