It’s been 16 years since his professional debut and temperatures are close to 30 degrees, but Danny Cipriani is still the last one off the training ground. After a quick shower, wiping the sweat from his forehead, he takes a seat on the freshly cut grass of Farleigh House and begins to talk about his new life.
“The summer has been good,” he says. ‘I was away in Greece for a week with the missus. The world has been locked up for two years, so there’s not much you can do, right? I got married in lockdown and started my new life, which is great. Married life… I never thought it would happen, but it did.
“When I was younger, my concept of marriage was that it is not successful because of my own parents. You don’t think it’s going to work, so your idea of opening yourself up to someone is ‘Hell no!’ because you don’t know how it will end.
Danny Cipriani has opened up to Sportsmail on love, marriage and a fresh start in rugby
“Once you open up and it’s answered, it’s like freedom. Life is not just a flat track. We are always evolving. I enjoy life now.’
Cipriani seems at ease in his new environment. He talks about football, old friends and new beginnings in Bath. I joke that his wedding was surprisingly approachable for someone whose life has played out in front of most public eyes.
‘It was still in the Daily Mail,’ he chuckles, ‘but we kept it very quiet. We just wanted to get the registration and stuff done and we’ll do well in the Caribbean next year.
“The best thing about married life is that you are excited to come home every day. You have someone waiting for you who loves you and who loves you. You can be honest with each other, you can be vulnerable to each other. It is beautiful. If you can find that, go for it.
‘We want a baby. We are now going through IVF. It is a challenging process. Women are super women with the turmoil they go through. I would like to be a father. I am now a stepfather to Kam who is an amazing kid and I love that. Responsibilities come and I thrive on it.
“I feel much more comfortable at home with my family than doing this sort of thing. For several years I found life more difficult. I found the media and the attention difficult. It was tough because I felt like I was dumbfounded. I was pushed in at a time when there wasn’t much support.
Cipriani was criticized earlier in his career for several controversial off-field incidents
“Nowadays if a journalist says something bad, you can shout them out on Twitter and people will help you. I didn’t grow up in that time. It was very different. It was brutal. It shapes your character and who people think you are.
“Now we can sit here and have more open and vulnerable conversations. In the past it was difficult to talk about things like mental health, but things are getting better. You would be judged for showing weakness.
“When you’re younger, there’s a lot more uncertainty. There isn’t that much flow in your life. You get your dopamine spikes — seeing friends, all the things I’ve done, the tricky stuff — but you don’t go to bed in something fruitful. It’s just nice to have that support at home. My life is now what I’ve always wanted.’
Almost 10 months have passed since Cipriani’s last competitive rugby match. He left Gloucester midway through last season against a backdrop of uncertainty, but now his mind is back on the game. He has rediscovered his love for the sport.
“How was your summer in South Africa?” he asks. ‘What was it like going to the township of Cheslin Kolbe in Cape Town? Pretty rough? Different world, different conversations. It puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? As you get older, you are more aware of things. You are more aware of things. You reflect more.
‘You are excited about the future. You are grateful for what you have. During my free time, at first I really thought I was going to retire. I felt I had had enough. Not in a negative way as I enjoyed my time in Gloucester but I just felt like my trip was running its course.
But Cipriani, now married to Victoria (right) admitted he is happier and more settled than ever
‘I’ve been on the assembly line since I was 17. I was disappointed not to make the World Cup squad because that was something I had been working towards. I got player of the season that year, so I was hoping to take a look, but it didn’t happen.
‘You think, ‘Now what?’ How do you keep renewing yourself? I’ve parked rugby for a while. It took me some time to organize my thoughts, but in February I started looking at it again and was on the edge of my seat. I missed it. The grind of rugby is tough, but you have to be thankful for the fact that we get to do it.
“This opportunity came with Bath and it was an opportunity to be part of a great club again. There’s so much talent here, guys like Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson, Semesa Rokoduguni, Tom de Glanville, and that makes it easy to get the job done.
“I still want to go out and prove I can play under the lights, but there’s a bigger picture now. Everything used to be about rugby, so everything was ridden that way.
“Now I’m going home to a beautiful family and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. It makes coming to work more fun and I appreciate it more because you know it won’t last forever.
“It could be my senior year, or I could play another one. Who knows? You just have to make the most of every moment. As cliché as it sounds, I just want to watch it match by match and get that match feeling in me again, because I definitely missed it.”
After playing against Bath on several occasions, the 33-year-old has now joined the West Country side
Cipriani will be tasked with lighting a Bath squad full of talent, including Lions pair Watson and Toby Faletau. After the final test in South Africa, Gregor Townsend said in his coaching debrief that fly halves are moving towards a more attacking generation. Does Cipriani agree?
“It’s funny, I missed most of the third test because our Sky failed. It was so frustrating. We had to get the Sky man out, had this whole din and it turns out the dog had turned off the antenna as she sleeps next to the TV.
“I’ve looked back bits and I’ve seen some things Finn Russell was doing. That injection of life he put into the game seemed to help. He was on fire. It all depends on what the coach wants. The coach dictates much of how the game goes.
“If the team isn’t happy about it, conversations start to push things in a different direction. Finn made all the difference when he showed up with his inventiveness and his ability to play on the gainline, but it was a little too late. There are so many ways to skin a cat.
‘Look at the way South Africa plays… it’s not the most glamorous form of rugby, but it’s winning rugby. You have to look at the tools around you. There are certainly nicer ways to play the game, but that’s what World Rugby is trying to do by changing the laws.
“The 50-22 rule and the goal-line dropout are ways to create more space on the pitch. The defenses get better and you have to find new ways to break them down.
The talented playmaker also opened up about his international career with England (pictured)
The gifted No. 10 is thought to have the talent to make more than the 16 appearances he did
‘Look at the expansive way Quins won the competition, that was a great promotion for rugby. It was great to see. Marcus Smith has all the skills and it was good to see a club buy their own identity and go after it.
“The All Blacks seem to be leading the way as always. Richie Mo’unga is probably the most notable 10 right now. The new rules are trying to bring a faster game and it will go that way. It will bring up some new questions and hopefully we can use that at Bath to get on the run and play exciting rugby.”
Nearly 40 minutes have passed and not once has the call turned to England. That chapter seems to have finally closed. Is Cipriani satisfied with what he has accomplished for them?
But England’s head coach Eddie Jones often favored George Ford and Owen Farrell
“I felt like I was knocking on the door and no opportunities came up, but you just have to find ways to make peace with that. I would go home, work hard and keep showing up. I did that until 2019 and I can hang my hat on that.
“I am grateful that I ever got to play a game for England. Where I grew up I wasn’t supposed to play for England. I don’t think I’ve been given enough opportunities, but that’s my journey.
‘Life won’t always be a bed of roses, but I’ve learned a lot. You just have to keep moving forward and enjoy the next moment.’