THE transformation of Danny Cipriani has led to the Sale Sharks outside-half being named Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Month for March.
And England international Austin Healey said the former fly-half looks to be in the form of his life under Steve Diamond this season and believes his displays ‘now warrant serious consideration for further honours’.
Cipriani beat an impressive shortlist to lift the prize, following in the footsteps of Leicester Tigers wing Vereniki Goneva to lift the seventh award of the season. Sale Sharks are the sixth side to have one of their players recognised this season following awards for Leicester Tigers, Saracens, Saints, Bath Rugby and Harlequins.
“The fortunes and abilities of Danny Cipriani and Sale Sharks seem to have run in tandem over the past 18 months and the comparisons are no coincidence,” said BT Sport’s Healey.
“Sale have transformed from a northern, talented, gritty yet average side to a stable top four contender who are very difficult to beat. Danny has had a large part to play in this transformation.
“He has successfully transformed his game from a reckless talent to an influential and controlling No 10.
“Danny has always had a maverick inside waiting to break out at any stage – which he still has – but this year and in particular over the last few months he has led Sale to the threshold of the top four. A miraculous story not only for Sale Sharks, but also for Danny.”
Cipriani beat his Sale Sharks skipper Dan Braid, who was shortlisted for the second successive month, Leicester Tigers second row Ed Slater and Worcester Warriors full-back Chris Pennell to the seventh Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Month title of the season after they were shortlisted by a prestigious media panel.
Cipriani wins a trophy from title sponsor Aviva and £250 to donate to a charity of his choice. Danny has chosen ‘Maggies’ charity Healey adds: “He has shown a territorial knowledge and has kept the Sale Sharks pack close to his early phases enabling him to add width when it is on.
“Essentially he is playing what he sees very well. A maverick playing within a structured game plan is very dangerous and that is exactly why Danny deserves this month’s Aviva Premiership Player of the Month award.”
The winner was voted for by a panel of media professionals – Nick Mullins (BT Sport), Alastair Eykyn (BT Sport), Mick Cleary (Daily Telegraph), Ian Stafford (Mail on Sunday), Jill Douglas (ITV Sport), Chris Jones (Radio 5 Live), David Rogers (Getty Images) and Ben Coles (Planet Rugby). The panel was chaired by Paul Morgan Premiership Rugby's communications director.