Danny Cipriani discusses his personal growth on Will Greenwood's Podcast
Last Updated: 03/01/19 7:08am
Special guest Danny Cipriani spoke exclusively to Sky Sports on the Will Greenwood Podcast this week, chatting learning lessons, relationships with coaches and England...
In the week that one of Cipriani's old bosses Steve Diamond was described as "a narcissistic bully", Gloucester's playmaker talks to Rupert Cox and Greenwood on coaching relationships throughout his own career, and the difficulties which have arisen on occasions.
Indeed, speaking on a Christmas Special of the podcast last month, former World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward commented on Cipriani: "On talent and skill, Cipriani should have been in the team the last ten years. He was the person to come in and take over from [Jonny] Wilkinson, he was the man ready to go.
"He just seemed to be a person where coaches didn't want to talk to [him], and he was the guy you'd want to be absolutely close to and almost build the team around him."
On Wednesday, Cipriani told Sky: "I think it's an interesting observation from Sir Clive. A strong opinion from someone very well respected. But for me, I've got very close relationships with a lot of coaches I've had in my life and I think it just depends on individual personalities, how they get on and how they match.
"I'm probably at a stage now where I can drive performances and drive a team and not massively have it based on great personal relationships.
"It's probably what I best did at Wasps to an extent, and it wasn't like there was a falling out or anything like that with Dai [Young], it's just we probably didn't get on as well as maybe he had with other players, which is absolutely fine. But I let my rugby do the talking and I'd like to think I left that club in a better position than when I came, or at least I tried to.
"What I enjoy about rugby now is trying to make everyone around me a better player, but that's not necessarily because I have the answers or the key - I've had some unbelievable mentors in my life and it's almost like I'm just relaying a message.
"I've had Shaun Edwards and Brian Ashton, who for me are two of the greatest minds in sport.
"Ashton just made rugby fun...I was very lucky to have Shaun, who I worked with very closely from 16 to 21, and the amount of times we'd spend on the field after training, doing extras. I'm godfather to his daughter and that's how close I am with Shaun.
"It's very important to me to have that relationship, but it doesn't mean that either person is right or wrong in that situation, for example myself and Martin Johnson, that didn't quite click or come because maybe it was just two different personalities and maybe I wasn't mature enough to handle that situation or maybe Jonno wasn't man managing me in the best way, whatever it was.
"I was 20 and I just probably hadn't had a life experience to deal with it as well as I could, purely because for the previous five years, every coach I'd come across became such a strong figure in my life.
"Warren Gatland gave me my first contract, I worked very closely with Ian McGeechan, Edwards and Ashton - I've mentioned them - and it was probably just my first experience [with Johnson] of not having that relationship with a coach and I didn't handle it in the best manner. It's something I learnt from and in my last six years, I like to think I've had some consistency in it. But I can definitely get better in it.
"When I finished last season, it got to the point where I was looking at either taking some time out just to keep growing as a person, and I was kind of waiting for that England announcement at the end of the season.
"That came and that's when we made the decision to go to Gloucester, but previous to that I'd met Johan [Ackermann], I'd met David [Humphreys] and got a really good vibe and sense from them as humans and where they were driving the club.
"For me, they gave me that license to be able to come in and do my thing on the field, and lead. I did that to the best of my ability at Wasps and it probably wasn't as well received by Dai in that way, which is fine because that's just his way of leadership.
"It's not a criticism, it's just different people for different flavours, and Johan was very much up for it. I have a lot of great conversations with Johan about rugby and I learn a lot from him in different ways.
"One of the most impressive things about Johan and one of things I've enjoyed the most, is his investment in growing men and growing players. Some of the things he brings into meetings aren't necessarily about rugby, but just gives you a different perspective. Those types of things in a culture of a macho sport and opening up conversations like that, is only going to breed good.
"Along with that you've got his toughness as a player and how he delivers his stuff as a coach. Play to inspire is one of the big messages he drives because we understand the town of Gloucester is a phenomenal place. There's a bigger purpose and reason as to why we're out there doing what we're doing, we try to play as such.
"I should have learnt quicker. It's been an interesting journey - all of it."
And what of Diamond, who Cipriani played under at Sale Sharks between 2012 and 2016? What are Cipriani's recollections of working him?
"All I can talk about is the experiences I've had with Steve Diamond, and they've been positive," he said. "I learnt a lot from him, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and he runs his business in a very tight manner. He's got some financial backing and he's building a strong team at Sale.
"What I could say from my experiences was that he always made the best out of a situation, so we might not necessarily have had the names or glamour in our squad, but we'd finish in Europe three years on the bounce and overachieved. So he gave us that motivation and inspiration in that way.
"He's an old school, tough, tough guy. Players aren't afraid of him but I think in his leadership, he would definitely find ways to drive and inspire players in a certain way. He's not oblivious to people's energy, feelings or emotions. So if he feels like someone needs a kick up the proverbial, that's his way of how he'll lead.
"But all coaches, mentors and people have that. It's a balance of trying to understand the push and the pull behind it. I've seen him put arms around players that needed it. Whether personal things or not, I've seen him do that with younger players.
"But were there times when he would have been tough? He would, because that would been his experiences and his way. He's very emotional and he cares a lot about what he does.
"You understand when an altercation happens, it's just a disagreement between two people talking and at the time, it's almost like their two egos are butting heads. Two people not seeing eye-to-eye or looking too much into things.
"But you can't ever take it too seriously in that way, and that's a lesson I've had to learn."
Another key coaching relationship for Cipriani at the present moment concerns England head coach Eddie Jones.
Having started his first England Test for a decade on the June 2018 summer tour to South Africa, Cipriani has missed out on squads since. How disappointing has that been?
"Not necessarily disappointment, you just then look within: 'How do I get better and keep growing?'
"It's down to you to go and implement that in the game-plan of what you're doing and to show that desire and will of how much you want to play for your country.
"It's so easy to point the finger in any situation in life with whatever's happening, like for me over the last couple of years, but the realisation I've come to is that it's constantly about personal growth, understanding your moments and your responsibilities. Making sure you don't keep repeating the same lessons.
"That's what was frustrating for me in the summer and the incident in Jersey, something which at the time was deemed to be minor but then ended up getting into something which was a much bigger escalation.
"Fair play to Gloucester, they dealt with it in an unbelievable manner, but it's just not a true representation of who I am and my philosophies. That was probably the most disappointing, but that then gives you another challenge of going to earn the trust back and do all that, and I've done that as best I can so far at Gloucester.
"It's hard to put into words, but I fully understand what he [Jones] wants me to do when I go out there. It's that type of thing where I leave it with me and Eddie and I've just got to do the best I can.
"For me it wasn't a set-back because I've never taken any position for England for granted because obviously I've been in and out for so long.
"I've got no idea [if the Jersey incident played a role in his England omission], you can only go on what Eddie said, he's a very straight talking character, and said it was about form.
"So you've got to ask: 'How can you keep making that impression in the game? How can you get better?' And there's lots of ways I can and that's something I'm very inspired to do over these next six months."
And in a new year, what is Cipriani hoping for from 2019?
"In 2019, I'll hope to keep growing as a person, otherwise you're standing still, so that's something that is important to me.
"Being more present in every day and not living in the past or future, because that is something I've experienced when I went through darker times when I was younger: trying to live in the future does cause uncertainty and depression.
"And on the field, I'm very grateful to be at Gloucester and it's a great challenge to see how far we can go this season, and to become more integrated in that group.
"Life's a journey and I love the opportunity of being able to be a rugby player. It's almost a mini game within the game of life, so I've just got to try complete it in the best way I can."