Aviva Premiership
'Cipriani must learn how to defend'
ESPN Staff
December 22, 2012
Sale's Danny Cipriani stretches the London Irish defence, Sale Sharks v London Irish, Aviva Premiership, Salford City Stadium, Salford, England, November 2, 2012
Danny Cipriani will not play against his former side © PA Photos

Sale boss John Mitchell has singled out Danny Cipriani's poor defensive skills as the reason behind his omission from the matchday squad for their match with Wasps on Sunday.

Mitchell saw Sale fall to a huge 62-0 defeat to Toulon last weekend and with the Sharks at the foot of the Aviva Premiership with just one win to their name, he has opted to make a headline change ahead of their match with Wasps on Sunday. Cipriani came in for criticism after the match against Toulon for his missed tackle on Frederic Michalak, a move which resulted in the fly-half scoring, and Mitchell, who is at Sale in a consultancy role, has criticised the mercurial fly-half's defensive skills.

"Danny's got exceptional talent but he's going to have to learn how to defend," Mitchell told the Telegraph. "You've got to be reliable as a defender. It's that simple. You can sugar-coat it as much as you like but that's what it comes down to.

"You can't get away with poor defence in today's game. A player has to be reliable in all forms of the game, defence as well as attack, for the obvious reason that you don't know what cards you're going to be dealt during that match. That's why rugby is such a unique team sport. It requires everyone to be serving the situation. It only needs one player to come up short and you're in trouble."

The Telegraph claims that Mitchell could be at Sale for only a couple of months and could return to South Africa, where he is a consultant for the Lions, as soon as February. Mitchell has officially been on Sale's books since November 28, following the resolution to his legal wrangling with the Lions, and he puts Sale's precarious position down to a "lack of will".

"I'm not the boss, even though it had been painted that way, I'm here to play a role," Mitchell said. "I've only been out on the pitch three times since I've been here. I've got to get the mindset in the players right and look at the set-up for this season as well as for the future.

"The surgery should start now. You're better off with people who are really committed to the club. The rugby content is here, there are some very promising young English players, but there's a lack of will. Players give up on each other rather than going the distance."

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