Rebels expect Cipriani to remain in Australia despite Bath rumours

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The Independent Online

The Melbourne Rebels said yesterday that they expect former England fly-half Danny Cipriani to honour his two-year deal with the Super 15 club despite ongoing disciplinary issues and reports that he is being sought by Bath.

Cipriani, touted as one of the team's marquee signings in their first year, was recently left behind in Melbourne while the Rebels embarked on a two-week trip to South Africa. He did not play in the team's last match in Australia against Queensland after ignoring a team directive by staying out late after a loss the previous week. He was also fined by the Rebels in February after admitting to taking a bottle of vodka from a Melbourne nightclub.

"He hasn't asked to get out of his contract," Rebels chief executive Ross Oakley said from South Africa ahead of Melbourne's match with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein today. "I've spoken to his manager who told me there's no truth in the fact that he's wanting to go to Bath."

Bath were reported to be interested in the 23-year-old Cipriani to replace South African Butch James, who is returning to his homeland.

The Rebels did not name Cipriani in the 26-man squad making the trip to play the Bulls in Pretoria and the Cheetahs. The Bulls beat the Rebels 47-10 last weekend.

"Following meetings between the Rebels players, coaches and management, it has been decided that Danny Cipriani will not travel to South Africa," the Rebels said in a statement before the team left. "Danny will train with the other non-touring players over the next two weeks and will continue his community engagement with local clubs and schools during this time."

His team-mate Richard Kingi, who also did not play against Queensland as a result of his involvement in the late-night incident in Sydney, was recalled for the South Africa trip.

Oakley said yesterday that Cipriani appeared committed to the Rebels. "He's training here and has been working very hard while the boys have been away, so we'll see how it progresses as time rolls by," Oakley said. "He's keeping his head down and working hard.

"He's doing all the things he's been asked to do as well as his training, so it will be how the team and team management see that once they get back."

He said it would be up to the coach, Rod Macqueen, and senior players whether Cipriani would be available for selection for their next match following South Africa – against the Stormers on 3 June.

Out of finals contention, the Rebels are hoping to end a five-match losing streak against the Cheetahs, who have won three straight games.