'We are Stronger than Ever' - TRU Exclusive with Danny Cipriani

The inception of Danny Cipriani back to Premiership rugby with Sale Sharks has been a revelation for the enigmatic playmaker, as he guided the Manchester-based side to a sixth place finish in the league and rekindled his own international career.

The London-born fly-half returned to England’s top-flight after a season with Australian Super Rugby side the Melbourne Rebels and re-ignited the promise he showed as a youngster with London Wasps.

Under the watchful eye of Sale Director of Rugby Steve Diamond, Danny has flourished once again and moulded himself into a mature stand-off.

After battling hard all year long to survive in the 2012/13 season, Sale turned their fortunes around and caused a remarkable amount of upsets – so many, in fact, that they could no longer use that title.

This year, as ever, there has been a change in personnel, with Scottish international Chris Cusiter, traveling south to Manchester from Glasgow Warriors, ready to fill the vacant number 9 shirt that was left open by Dwayne Peel, who departed to Bristol.

The Scottish and English pair of Danny and Chris, both now 26, are expected to be Diamond’s first choice pairing and both are extremely excited about the prospect.

Speaking to BBC Radio, the former Scotland captain admitted that "any combination takes a while to build up a relationship and get used to each other, but he's definitely a talent.

"He's been good in training, he speaks a lot and he's really passionate about his rugby."

Looking ahead to the coming season, now just over a week away, the Talking Rugby Union team headed to Manchester’s AJ Bell Stadium for the annual pre-season press day and spoke to Danny about both the club’s and his own ambitions for the new season.

Firstly, casting the mind back to Sale’s success, Danny explained that the club as a whole “prepared smarter than ever before.

“We showed that tough, dogged edge that we have about us, with some smarts in there as well.

“It was important to develop on the season before, because, obviously, we didn’t achieve what we wanted to and when we look back on last season there were two games that we possibly should’ve won, which would’ve made ups top four.

“So, you know, there’re still definitely areas of improvement that we can work on.”

The Sharks, out of a 22 fixture-long season, won 12 of their matches and lost 10, on their way to securing sixth spot.

The season got off to the perfect start with an impressive 22-16 victory over Gloucester, away at Kingsholm and the Sharks never looked back from there.

Building on this success for the new year, Danny admitted that there were a number of areas the club have benchmarked as places to improve:

“There are a few areas that we’ve got to work on over the summer and we’ve done that very well.

“The coaches have been brilliant all pre-season and the players have turned up in exceptional shape so I think it’s important that everyone is on that right path and I think everyone is.

“Every day at training we are striving to get better, improve and I know it’s a bit of a cliché thing to say but if everyone is thinking like that then everyone is going to be getting better and that’s the main thing when it comes to the big games this year.”

As with any club there is always a significant amount of change within an off-season and Sale have been no different from that trend this summer. However, it is the losses of talent who seem to be more significant than the recruits.

Sale have lost a number of home-grown talents including James Gaskell and Rob Miller who have both departed for Wasps after coming through the Sharks academy to the first team.

Another difficult loss is of prop Henry Thomas who, last season, has impressed heavily in the Premiership before solidifying a spot in the England squad.

Given the losses, though, Danny reassured that the squad was in great shape ahead of the new season:

“I think the squad is actually in better shape than when we started the league last year,” Danny admitted.

“We lost some young exciting players but we have signed some experience and some international class and they have all gelled into the squad extremely well.

“We may have had to learn a bit of Italian for Alberto but that’s just what we’re doing, but it’s all important because it’s going to be a big year and there’s a lot more expectation on us and we need to make sure that we deliver for the Sale fans and ourselves.”

The Sharks open their 2014/15 bid for Premiership glory on Saturday the 6th when they welcome Bath to the AJ Bell Stadium.