Sale snap up Cipriani
England exile Danny Cipriani is to return to his home country after signing a three-year deal with Sale.
The 24-year-old fly-half, once seen as the natural successor to Jonny Wilkinson in the national side, will return to the Aviva Premiership at the end of his two-season stay with Super Rugby side the Melbourne Rebels. He initially left England in 2010 when he swapped Wasps for Melbourne, but will now be back with Steve Diamond's ambitious side.
Cipriani has been linked with a number of clubs over recent weeks, but the Sharks confirmed they had snared his signature on their official website on Tuesday morning, and coach and chief executive Diamond said: "Quality signings such as Danny are a massive statement of intent from the Sharks as we aim to become a Super Northern club."
He added: "Danny has been targeted by many European clubs, but has chosen to be based in Manchester as he feels that the Sharks give him the best opportunity to fulfil his aspirations to be the number one fly-half in England by the time of the 2015 World Cup."
Such a role seemed to be Cipriani's birthright when he first emerged on the scene as a rookie 17-year-old in 2004.
His progress continued and in 2008 he was named as the Professional Rugby Association's young player of the year after making his England debut against Ireland in March of that year. That, though, was only after he had missed the chance to make it against Scotland after being dropped from the squad for disciplinary reasons.
He went on to win six more caps but has fallen out of favour since, with his time in Melbourne taking him out of the selection picture. His time in Victoria has not been all plain sailing either, with the Rebels standing him down for a month last season after a breach of club discipline.
Despite his disciplinary problems in Melbourne, the Rebels chief executive Steven Boland believes Cipriani's time with the club has been an important experience in his development.
"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," Boland said.
"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."