Cipriani not ruling out England return

Danny Cipriani claims he would "never rule out" returning to play in England after agreeing a lucrative deal with newly-formed Australian team Melbourne Rebels.

The England international fly-half will quit Wasps at the end of this season to play Super 15 rugby Down Under.

If effectively ends the 22-year-old's chances of featuring in the 2011 England World Cup squad.

But seven times-capped Cipriani has rocketed down the pecking order since Martin Johnson took over as England manager, even though he remains among the domestic game's brightest talents.

Cipriani said: "I have been given no indication that I am pushing for a place with England at the moment, so it is up to me to ensure I am in contention in the future by challenging myself in new realms.

"I have some of the best coaches and players in the game around me at Wasps, which is why it has been so hard to make my decision, but I am still young enough to go away and experience something completely different.

"I want to be the best player I can be, and this is a huge challenge and opportunity to test myself, on and off the pitch, because it will be changing everything I know.

"Leaving Wasps is very hard. This is my home, I have played here since I was 15.

"I see this move as the next step in my career and would never rule out coming back to play in England.

"If I did, the first place I would look at is Wasps, and we have already talked about that as a possibility for the future.

"I believe in the coaches and the players here and it will be very difficult to leave, but the decision has been made easier by having the support of (rugby director) Tony Hanks and (head coach) Shaun Edwards."

News of Cipriani's Wasps exit comes hot on the heels of Wasps' England wing Paul Sackey agreeing a two-year contract to play alongside Jonny Wilkinson at Toulon next term.

"From a club perspective it is obviously disappointing for the fans that they won't get to see Danny playing at Adams Park," admitted Wasps boss Hanks.

"But I am sure that they will follow his progress in Australia with a lot of interest.

"The news of Wasps' departures has obviously dominated, with Sackey and now Cipriani, but we owe it to guys like these who have served the club well before we move to the announcements about new players joining the squad.

"We have some very positive recruitment underway behind the scenes, and there is a very positive feeling at the club.

"Obviously, we are disappointed that Danny is leaving, especially as he has worked hard on a return to form on the back of a couple of nasty injuries.

"However, knowing his reasons are based on rugby and personal development, we as a club support his decision.

"Working with him for the last few weeks around this decision, we have looked at it more as a Wasp going on a sabbatical and, while nothing is guaranteed, Danny has expressed a desire to return to the club later down the line."

It is understood that Cipriani will need to be in Australia by October this year, ready for a full pre-season ahead of the 2011 Super 15 campaign.

The Rebels are thought to have a playing budget of more than £5 million, with other English players also believed to be on their shopping list.

Cipriani had been a target for French clubs Stade Francais - whose squad includes his ex-Wasps colleagues James Haskell and Tom Palmer - and Perpignan.

Rebels head coach, former Australia national team chief Rod Macqueen, welcomed Cipriani's pending arrival.

"Danny was insistent that he wanted to come here and it wasn't about money," Macqueen told Sky Sports News.

"It was about changing his direction in what he is doing with his sport. That is what attracted me most.

"He was interested in what we are doing and getting an understanding of what we are trying to do in putting the side together.

"We are a new franchise, and that requires a special approach to things. We need a team-first attitude, and what impressed me was Danny's humility,

"It was not about money, it was about his future and the type of players he would be playing alongside. He seemed to be seeking something that wasn't about the highest dollar."

The Rebels confirmed that Cipriani had agreed a two-year deal and that he would be expected to begin pre-season work with them in August.

They also revealed it was the intention of Macqueen and his coaching staff to play him at full-back, the position he started for England Saxons against Italy A earlier this month.

Rebels chief executive Brian Waldron predicted Cipriani would be a "fantastic contributor" to the team.

"We are not in a position to pay Danny the sort of money he could attract in Europe, and his decision demonstrates the strength of his commitment to be a part of the Melbourne Rebels," said Waldron.

"Danny is coming out of contract with the London Wasps at the end of the current season, so the timing was right.

"We also appreciate the highly professional manner in which Wasps have treated our contract negotiations.

"With his youth and ability, we believe Danny will be a fantastic contributor to the team.

"We are building a squad of committed players that will have the optimum blend of experience and young talent."