Sport

Sale Sharks’ John Mitchell claims dropped Danny Cipriani ‘must improve defence’ after missing Wasps defeat

By James Scott

Sale Sharks director of rugby John Mitchell defended his decision to drop Danny Cipriani despite his side’s poor kicking display in their defeat to Wasps. 

The hosts held a one point lead at the break courtesy of three Stephen Jones penalties after Richie Vernon’s try added to Rob Miller’s kick. 

Jones and Miller exchanged kicks in the second half, with Rhys Thomas’s score proving to be decisive, despite Johnny Leota’s successfully converted try earning Sale a bonus point in the 25-18 loss. 

Former All Blacks coach Mitchell insisted Cipriani’s performances to date were not good enough to warrant a start against his former club and praised his replacement Nick Macleod. 

“Danny knows the situation and what’s going on and he knows that there needs to be an improvement in performance,” said the New Zealander.

“He has to improve his defence. Last week against Toulon he defended for 35 minutes and then chose not to do so.

“Nick Macleod came in and performed well. He’s had a bit of a back injury recently which we’ve had to manage but his performance was pleasing.”

Mitchell believes the move will benefit Cipriani and help him re-focus on what is needed to help him reach the standards that made many believe he was Jonny Wilkinson’s natural successor.  

He was disappointed with Sale’s kicking display after the Sharks squandered 11 points off the tee, but praised his side’s industry in earning a bonus point at the death. 

He also refused to be drawn into what long-term future he had at the club, choosing instead to foucs on the short-term problems facing the Sharks.

“It’s not my job to be Santa Claus and hand out presents,” said Mitchell.

“I’m being a father, in a way – taking the toy off him and seeing how important it is to him. I want the young man to realise his potential.”

“We certainly presented ourselves with opportunities to win the game but the kicking at crucial times wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

“We showed good character to get the bonus point at the end though which could be very important and it means that we’re getting closer to London Irish.

“They are just in front of us and not a long way off so we have our destiny and we have to deal with what’s in front of us.

“I have a short term agreement. I’ve been given an SOS call. I can’t tell you whether it’ll be long term.”

Victory for Wasps extended their 100% unbeaten home record and leaves Sale with four points fewer than relegated Newcastle Falcons achieved at this stage in the Aviva Premiership last year. 

Mitchell’s side will continue their search for a second league victory of the season with their clash with Worcester this Friday at Salford City Stadium.

Image courtesy of Sale Sharks, via YouTube, with thanks.

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