Wasps hoping Cipriani will be big draw for date at HQ

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The Independent Online

If everything goes to plan over the next three months, then Danny Cipriani will spend most of November playing for England at Twickenham after which he should be returning there in mid-January for Wasps.

The Premiership Champions announced yesterday that they are to stage their return Pool Two Heineken Cup match against Leinster at HQ on Saturday 17 January.

At the moment the plan is to open the "lower bowl" of Twickenham, which has a capacity of 33,000 – more than three times the capacity of Wasps present home Adams Park, in High Wycombe.

The Wasps' chief executive, Tony Copsey, is clearly intent on exploiting Cipriani's burgeoning celebrity status. With tongue perhaps tucked a little way into his cheek, Copsey said: "I think we have been very fortunate at Wasps to have had a lot of big-name players, Lawrence Dallaglio in the past for example, they do get publicity, and Danny is one of those. So obviously in the few weeks [leading up] to that game we'll have Danny fighting in the clubs and streaking in the streets to get as much publicity [as possible]."

Asked if Cipriani was taking the game to a new market, Copsey said: "I think Danny certainly is doing that. He is a celebrity foremost, and, almost, a rugby player second."

Cipriani knows how to catch the public eye, from his courtship of the actress and model Kelly Brook, to his much publicised fracas last week with team-mate Josh Lewsey, the immensely talented former Whitgift School pupil is proving as much a gift to the gossip columnists as he is to rugby reporters.

There is no doubt Cipriani will put bums on seats at Twickenham and Wasps are prepared to open up more of the ground if demand is there for what is being billed as "The Battle of the Champions" – Premiership champions Wasps and Magners League title holders Leinster.

Meanwhile, European Rugby Cup announced yesterday that the final of the Heineken Cup, for which more than 20,000 tickets have already been sold, will be held at Murrayfield on Saturday 23 May.

Sale give the giant England prop Andrew Sheridan only a 50-50 chance of recovering from a shoulder injury in time to face Munster in their Heineken Cup Pool One match on Sunday, but Mathew Tait, who missed the victorious opening match against Clermont-Auvergne, is expected to be fit.

Sale have had to reorganise their training schedule because lock Kris Ormsby and back Rudi Keil, have to attend a disciplinary hearing in Dublin today after being cited following last weekend's cup action. They appear alongside two former All Black scrum-halves, Byron Kelleher and Justin Marshall.

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