LONDON - Danny Cipriani's Test career should be over as a result of the latest unsavoury episode in his controversial career - according to World Cup-winning England coach Sir Clive Woodward.
The fly-half yesterday pleaded guilty at Jersey Magistrates Court to common assault and resisting arrest. He was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £250 in compensation to a female police officer who was left with bruises on her arm and red marks on her neck following the ugly incident in St Helier in the early hours of Wednesday.
His club, Gloucester, have declared their support for the 30-year-old and it is understood that the Rugby Football Union will not prevent England coach Eddie Jones picking Cipriani for the autumn Tests if he wishes, providing no further disciplinary action is taken. However, in his Daily Mail column today, Woodward - a staunch supporter of the playmaker for several years - argues that he has run out of lives.
"When I heard the news, my first thought was 'enough is enough', and when more details came through yesterday, I’m afraid that just confirmed my initial reaction," he writes. ‘When will Danny stop shooting himself in the foot?
"You have to trust every player on and off the pitch, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Can Cipriani be trusted? I suspect Eddie will now decide that he can’t and frankly, who could blame him? I am left to sadly conclude that Cipriani has never fully understood that - and now it’s almost certainly too late."
Defence advocate Mike Preston told the court that Cipriani "had too many drinks" at Drift nightclub in The Royal Yacht Hotel, St Helier, and police were called when he tried to grab a body camera off a doorman.
He was later picked up by police but managed to escape from his cuffs and a second officer - PC Jodie Botterill, a Welsh international footballer and former head coach of Jersey’s national women’s team - was needed to restrain him.
The court heard that Cipriani grabbed PC Botterill, 33, by her collar and shirt as she tried to arrest him following the row with a doorman. He also pushed her in the chest while telling her to "Get the f*** off me", leaving her with bruising and marks to her neck, face and arm.
It is possible that Cipriani may be reprieved and still have a chance to push for inclusion at next year’s World Cup. RFU chief executive Steve Brown will not insist that the talented No 10 is excluded as a union policy decision - instead it will be left to Jones to make his own judgment call.
In principle, the RFU would have the right to take their own disciplinary action if it was deemed necessary, even if Gloucester consider the case to be closed. For now, the governing body will monitor what steps are taken by the West Country club and further significant sanctions against Cipriani are thought unlikely.
The fly-half issued a statement last night which sought to emphasise his remorse, but also explain the details of the incident. He said he was "mortified’ by his conduct, before adding: "I would also like to put on record the words of the magistrate, Sarah Fitz, who publicly stated, 'It was a minor incident', and 'A fine is more than sufficient'.
"I was wrong to argue with a bouncer, and pull on his camera tie. I was also wrong to resist arrest. This is why I pleaded guilty to these two charges and all other charges were dropped. I was initially confused as to why I was being arrested by three officers. This led me to react in the wrong manner for a matter of seconds, seeking to hold off the police officers rather than accepting their decision. It goes without saying, given the words of the magistrate, that I didn’t strike anyone or initiate aggression in any way."
Gloucester signed Cipriani in May and the half-back will return to training today. The club’s chief executive, Stephen Vaughan, explained their support, saying: "As a high-profile sportsperson, there is often a large degree of public scrutiny, which Danny is aware of.
"The incident in question was over in a matter of seconds and was a reaction to the conduct of other parties involved. He knows his responsibilities and is aware of the impact of this type of incident on the club. ‘However, Danny is a Gloucester player and will receive our full support.