Danny Cipriani Should Eye Move to Harlequins Rather Than Stay at Sale Sharks

Daniel Rey@@ReyDanielMFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2014

Cipriani put in creditable performances for England in New Zealand
Cipriani put in creditable performances for England in New ZealandAnthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

Danny Cipriani is looking into extending his stay at Sale Sharks beyond his current contract, which expires at the end of the 2014-15 season.

However, it would be better for his long-term England prospects if Cipriani bided his time and sounded out the possibility of replacing Nick Evans at Harlequins at the end of next season.  

Cipriani seemingly had the rugby world at his feet when he played a starring role against Ireland in the Six Nations in 2008.

Later that year he was dropped by England and since then a series of off-the-field controversies have hampered his development. Now the fly-half, who enjoyed a fine season with Sale Sharks, has announced, as per BBC Sport, that he is "happy to stay" with the club.

Sale finished a creditable sixth in the 2013-14 Aviva Premiership, and Cipriani is clearly grateful to the club for aiding his rejuvenation. As per Sky Sports, Cipriani noted in May:

I have had to add a bit to my game. If I had had these parts developed when I went back into the England team after I broke my ankle, it would have stood me in good stead. I’ve learned that, and you learn that over time as you get older. I’m grateful to everyone who has helped me in that position.

Harlequins, however, would be able to offer Cipriani the kind of high-intensity matches that Sale cannot guarantee. Whilst both are in next season's European Champions Cup, it is Harlequins who are an established side in Europe's premier club competition.

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Harlequins, who currently start with veteran Nick Evans at fly-half, have the ex-All Black contracted until the end of next season. If Cipriani wants to enhance his England chances, he would be better off sounding out a possible move to Harlequins for the 2015-16 season.

Rather than looking over his shoulder at the relegation places as could be the case with Sale, at Quins Cipriani would be challenging for the Premiership title they last won in 2011. Experience and performances in these key matches are what England will base their selection decisions on.

Cipriani wants his England place back, and the club he plays for has an important role in his chances. If that were Harlequins, Cipriani could forge a strong relationship with Quins and England’s first-choice scrum-half Danny Care.

If those dynamic two players were combining every week at club level, it could be hard for the England management to leave Cipriani out.

Realistically, there is also nowhere in England Cipriani could go other than Harlequins that would be a step up from Sale.

Although the prospect of Cipriani feeding Luther Burrell and George North would excite them, Premiership champions Northampton Saints are happy with their steady 10 Stephen Myler.

Of the other top teams, Saracens have Owen Farrell, Leicester Tigers have just signed Freddie Burns, and Bath Rugby have put their faith in George Ford. The only remaining side that outperformed Sale last term was Harlequins.

Danny Cipriani has an important decision to make, but it is one that should not be rushed. A player of Cipriani's talents deserves to be playing at the highest level.

Loyalty is one of rugby's strongest values, but from a purely playing perspective, Cipriani should strongly consider his future with Sale Sharks. Teaming up with Danny Care at Harlequins would suit him perfectly.