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Danny Cipriani found guilty of misconduct by RFU but escapes further punishment in farcical five-hour hearing

Cipriani is free to make his Gloucester debut on Thursday evening even though he was found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, which was confirmed at 11.45pm on Wednesday night

Jack de Menezes
Thursday 23 August 2018 07:25 BST
Rugby star Danny Cipriani fined for Jersey bar assault

Danny Cipriani’s farcical charge by the Rugby Football Union was upheld in the late hours of Wednesday night – only for the Gloucester and England Rugby fly-half to escape any further punishment.

The 30-year-old arrived at his RFU disciplinary hearing in Bristol mid-afternoon following his arrest in Jersey last week, before finally leaving five-and-a-half hours later having been found to have brought the game into disrepute.

Cipriani pleaded guilty to common assault after an altercation with a bouncer outside a St Helier nightclub in the early hours of Wednesday 15 August, and also pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. He was fined £2,000 by Jersey Magistrates’ Court and ordered to pay £250 compensation to a female police officer who was left with a bruised arm and marks on her neck, and also fined £2,000 by his club Gloucester after they decided to take internal action against the former Wasps half-back.

But the RFU’s charge of “conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game” brought widespread condemnation from Gloucester, past players and the Rugby Players’ Association, with the Premiership club arguing that their action against Cipriani should have been the end of the matter.

The RFU disagreed and hauled the England fly-half up in front of an independent disciplinary committee, who decided that Cipriani had brought the game into disrepute by behaving in a manner that “fell below the standard of behaviour expected of a rugby player”.

The former Sale stand-off arrived at the hearing in a grey suit with his shirt untucked, jeans and trainers in a look that hardly said he was taking the matter seriously, with Gloucester furious that he was having to appear before the RFU in the first place.

Yet while Cipriani was found guilty of misconduct, no sanction or further financial penalty was imposed, leaving him free to make his Gloucester debut on Thursday night in their pre-season match with the Dragons.

Danny Cipriani was found guilty of misconduct by the RFU late on Wednesday night (PA)

Cipriani’s court appearance in Jersey lasted just 13 minutes in what Magistrate Sarah Fritz described as a “minor” incident, but panel chairman Gareth Graham disagreed with that assessment and, following news of the decision at 11.45pm on Wednesday night, said that the charge against Cipriani was “appropriate”.

“Danny Cipriani is expected to behave in line with the core values of the game which include respect and discipline,” Graham said. “Those core values are not empty words or slogans as the panel were reminded during the hearing.

Danny Cipriani arrives at his RFU disciplinary hearing in Bristol (PA)

“By his guilty plea before the criminal court, Mr Cipriani accepts that he behaved in a way that, in the panel’s view, fell below the standard of behaviour expected of a rugby player. The panel were supported in reaching that decision by Gloucester Rugby’s own internal disciplinary hearing finding that his behaviour fell below the standard that the club expects.

“Mr Cipriani is a role model and by committing an act of common assault and by resisting arrest, the panel find his actions are prejudicial to the interests of the game.

Cipriani was fined £2,000 and told to pay £250 compensation (PA)

"The panel took in to account the sanction imposed upon Mr Cipriani by the court and the sanction imposed by Gloucester Rugby and when considering the totality of both, do not impose any further sanction. However, the panel do not agree that this is a ‘minor’ incident or ‘trivial’ and whilst they endorse the actions of Gloucester Rugby in fining Mr Cipriani and ordering that he complete 10 hours of work in the community, find that the decision of the RFU to bring a charge under Rule 5.12 was appropriate.”

Gloucester issued a statement to express their disappointment with Cipriani’s guilty verdict, but stressed their desire to put the ordeal to bed and focus on the new Premiership season that begins next weekend.

Cipriani will make his Gloucester debut on Thursday (PA)

“Whilst disappointed at the verdict this evening, we accept the decision of the panel, particularly concerning the way Gloucester Rugby have handled the matter,” Gloucester chief executive Stephen Vaughan said. “We believe that the panel’s decision not to impose any additional penalty endorses our approach.

“We now look forward to the start of the season and putting this incident behind us.”

Eddie Jones must decide whether to stick with Cipriani in his squad (PA)

That is unlikely to be the complete end of the matter though, with attentions now turning to whether England head coach Eddie Jones decides to eject Cipriani from his squad – which he will name on 20 September for a three-day training camp in Bristol. Cipriani made his return to the England side on the summer tour of South Africa, but Jones warned him in the lead up to the series that any further misdemeanours would almost certainly end his international career.

Danny Cipriani's career misdemeanours

March 2008

Cipriani was selected to start for England in a Six Nations game against Scotland at Murrayfield, but England coach Brian Ashton dropped him from the team after a photograph emerged of Cipriani leaving a London nightclub after midnight.

October 2008

Cipriani was involved in a training ground bust-up with his Wasps and England colleague Josh Lewsey while on duty with his club. It was widely reported that Cipriani was knocked out in the incident.

March 2011

Cipriani's spell in Australia with the Melbourne Rebels included him being fined by the Super Rugby franchise following a nightclub incident. He was fined one match fee payment by Rebels management for helping himself to a bottle of alcohol.

April 2013

Cipriani suffered bruising and concussion after being struck by a bus in Leeds. He was on a team night out with Sale Sharks when the incident happened. Cipriani was thought to have run across a road and misjudged the bus' speed. He later tweeted: "Thank you for all the well wishes. My ribs are a bit sore. Feel like I've been hit by a bus."

October 2015

England rugby chiefs confirmed a training ground incident between Cipriani and Mike Catt, a member of England's coaching staff. It happened the day before England announced their World Cup squad, which Cipriani subsequently missed out on. The RFU said the incident had no bearing on selection.

June 2016

Cipriani was convicted of drink-driving by Westminster magistrates. He crashed his car into a taxi during the early hours of the morning on June 1, 2015 in Fulham. He was fined £4,500, ordered to pay £3,120 in costs and banned from driving for 18 months.

August 2018

Cipriani was fined £2,000 over an assault at a Jersey bar. The 30-year-old pleaded guilty at Jersey Magistrates' Court to resisting arrest and common assault. A female police officer suffered bruising to her neck in the incident at the Royal Yacht Hotel in St Helier. Cipriani was fined £1,500 for resisting arrest, £500 for assault and £250 compensation to the police officer. He was found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game by the RFU but received no further punishment.

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