Mark Durden-Smith Column
Can Cipriani find his Premiership feet?
September 12, 2012
Can Danny Cipriani light up the Premiership stage in Sale colours this season? © PA Photos
Watching Danny Cipriani playing last Saturday at Sale's impressive new crib in Salford reminded me of my 79-year-old father. He'd rung me, that's the man who sired me not The Cip, three days earlier to impart the information he'd broken his left ankle in three places in a spectacular fall while on his way TO lunch (Note the caps) on holiday in Portugal.
His account of this unfortunate upending was made to sound like a scene from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon such was the altitude he'd supposedly reached and the triple axel loops he'd performed on his terrifying descent to a rather uncomfortable touchdown. (Note the rugby terminology - a token nod to the fact this is meant to be a rugby-themed article.)
In reality, he tripped on a cobble. Careless Pensioner Obtruding Stone. This magnificently sprightly man rang again a day later to tell me he'd now ruptured his Achilles tendon in his other foot on his way BACK from a dinner (Note the caps) the outcome of not having passed his 'crutches proficiency test'. Don't drink and crutch is a lesson we can all learn from this.
It's not his wild living and penchant for amply-mammaried blondes that prompted a thought connection between Old Man Durders and Dashing Dan. (I am hoping my mother doesn't spend too much of her day on ESPNscrum). No, it was something far more cerebral. A question so huge even Stephen Hawking might struggle to find a definitive answer to. And the question in question is this - is it humanly possible for a player of any sport, at any age, to come back stronger from a serious injury? Actually, I think the Hawkingmeister might find this one a little less taxing than the quandary of the origin of the Universe, but tough nonetheless. I assume the world's most eminent physicist would draw his conclusions from empirical data and intellectual tungsten. I shall base my hypothesis on whiffle and piffle and the odd forage into suspect search engines.
An ESPN colleague who I spend far too many of my weekends with - the pocket-sized one with a terrible addiction to sequins and horse hair implants - said he thought Cipriani had never been as good a player as he was before the horrific ankle break he suffered in Wasps' Premiership play-off semi-final against Bath in 2008. It was a stinker of an injury. He was England's coming man. Like his ankle it all started to go a little pear shaped after that. The question now, can he re-discover his best despite having a rewoven ankle?
Similarly, (not really but indulge me and him) will my father, a phenomenal driver of a straight golf ball, ever stand on the tee again and know his golf ball is going to fire straight down the middle in metronomic fashion? Secretly I think he must have been 'Made in Switzerland' but short of asking him to take a DNA test I'm not sure how to prove this pet theory. (In fact the direction his golf balls travel in are a lot more reliable and consistent than the direction cars that he's piloting travel in but that's for another day.)
The good news for both these highly-talented athletes is that I have found irrefutable proof that says they can be even better than their pre-injury form and here it is. You will have all heard of the French long jumper of Tunisian descent Salim Sdiri. Me neither, but we have now. Anyway in July 2007 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome this fine athlete, like a balloon at a drawing pin-themed children's party, was punctured by a stray javelin. He happened to be pacing the stadium collecting his thoughts when he collected a javelin in his kidney. His liver got the pin cushion treatment too all courtesy of Finland's presumably squiffy-eyed spear hurler Tero Pitmaki.
A spear in the midriff hurts and can cause serious damage, just ask anyone slain by King Arthur's famous spear Rhongomyriad or Ron for short. You would have thought having had a belly full of javelin would have rendered Old Salim's long jump future pretty bleak. Not a bit of it. In June 2009 the flying spear-riddled frog jumped a personal best and French National record of 8.42 metres, nearly two years AFTER (note caps) his run in with the Finn's wonky metallic stick.
Danny Cipriani and my battle hardened father need look no further than this article for incontrovertible proof that your best days are ahead of you.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Mark Durden-Smith is the lead presenter for live Aviva Premiership Rugby on ESPN