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Club Rugby

Cipriani shows he has talents as a healer too

It looked as if the No 10 would miss the rest of 2008 but an emotional return beckons. By Tim Glover

The message seems to be that if you are going to suffer a serious injury, do it when you are young, footloose and fancy-free. Danny Cipriani, months ahead of schedule, is expected to be named on the Wasps bench against Bath at High Wycombe on Wednesday night.

The last time the clubs met at Adams Park, in the Guinness Premiership semi-final in May, the brilliant young stand-off crumbled under the weight of a double tackle and left the field on a stretcher, breathing through an oxygen mask. He suffered a gruesome fracture dislocation of the right ankle which became known as the "Cipwreck".

Of course he would miss England's tour to New Zealand (he didn't miss much), but the view was that he would be out for so long he could write off 2008. Yet his rehabilitation has been so swift and successful that he could rejoin England's elite squad for the busy autumn international schedule.

"I remember my body going numb and not feeling too much pain," Cip-riani recalls. "But when I looked at my ankle, my brain told me I was meant to feel pain, so I suddenly did.

"Returning to the game is going to be emotional. I had doubts about coming back and I voiced my opinions, but my friends told me to be quiet and just get on with it. That's what I've tried to do. I'll have to calm myself a bit."

Ian McGeechan, Wasps' director of rugby, praised Cipriani's approach to the injury. "I have seen players struggle when they pick up serious leg injuries but Danny's attitude has been superb. It is that which has helped him come through ahead of schedule."

That and what is recognised as a thoroughly professional input from the medical teams, from the moment it was recognised the right ankle was pointing at a right angle. He has been in good hands throughout the process.

That evening Cipriani had an operation at the Lister Hospital in London. The head physiotherapist at Wasps, Prav Mathema, was full of praise for the hospital's work as well as his own medical team. Others also made a contribution, including the travelling medics from Bath, who assisted Cipriani as he lay on the pitch, and the paramedics who looked after the playeras he was driven from the stadium.

Then there was the surgeon, James Calder, who, according to Cipriani, did a "fantastic job". "I'm glad I saw the X-rays that evening because they showed the ankle was dead straight," Cipriani said. "I could see it was going to realign properly and that everything would be fine in the end."

Lawrence Dallaglio – Wasps have been missing their former captain and No 8 since his retirement at the end of a triumphant season as much as they have missed Cipriani during a wretched start to the new campaign – was of the view that the EnglandNo 10, with three caps, could ultimately benefit from the experience.

"I think Danny will emerge a stronger player," Dallaglio said. It may just be wishful thinking, but on the other hand Dallaglio has been there and done it and has the scars to prove it. He was forced to leave the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia in 2001 because of a knee injury and was invalided out of the ill-starred Lions campaign in New Zealand in 2005 with a fracture dislocation of the ankle. He and Cipriani can compare notes.

Having severed his relationship with a Cheeky Girl, Cipriani has been photographed out on the town with Kelly Brook, a former Big Breakfast presenter who used to go out with the Hollywood actor Billy Zane. Still a month shy of his 21st birthday, Cipriani says he is in no hurry to enter into a serious long-term relationship.

He is, however, impatient to get back into professional rugby, first with Wasps and then England. He is not in the elite 32-man party, but if form and fitness warranted it, he could be promoted from the second-string Saxons. Martin Johnson has Jonny Wilkinson back from a long-term injury but the competition at No 10 is not as intense as it should be. Through form or injury, Charlie Hodgson, Ryan Lamb and Shane Geraghty have fallen below Johnson's admittedly lofty radar.