English duo move clubs to keep World Cup dream alive
Flanker James Haskell and outhalf Danny Cipriani both leave Wasps at end of season
Danny Cipriani is joining Gloucester this summer. Photograph: Reuters
James Haskell and Danny Cipriani have kept their hopes of appearing at next year’s World Cup alive by signing deals with Northampton and Gloucester, respectively, as they prepare to leave Wasps at the end of the season.
The 33-year-old Haskell was told in January he would be released by Wasps at the end of the season – ending a 12-year career at the club – but after he revealed he was willing to take a pay cut to stay in the Premiership, Saints have announced his signature on a one-year-deal.
As recently as last month, Haskell still had no concrete offers from within the Premiership but he has repeatedly stated his desire to shun a move abroad and remain eligible for England with a view to appearing a next year’s World Cup in Japan.
He was among the 20 players listed as unavailable when Eddie Jones named his 34-man squad to tour South Africa next month – casting doubt on his England future – but he has been presented with an international lifeline by Northampton’s incoming director of rugby, Chris Boyd.
“I’m really excited and humbled to be joining a giant of English rugby in Northampton Saints,” said Haskell, who won the last of his 77 England caps against Ireland during the Six Nations. “It’s no secret that I want to continue my international career for as long as possible; the only way I can do that is by putting my best foot forward in club rugby and helping Saints fight their way back into contention for silverware.”
Wasps opted against renewing Haskell’s contract with the New Zealand-born flanker Brad Shields joining from the Hurricanes next season. Give the majority of clubs had already completed most of their recruitment for next term, Haskell was struggling to find a new employer but with Boyd ringing the changes at Northampton – 17 players will leave Franklin’s Gardens in the summer – the 12-month deal suits all parties.
“We’re thrilled to have captured James’ signature for next season, as he’s a player that can bring so much to Saints,” said Boyd. “Not only is he a superb leader with bags of experience at the very highest level, but James is clearly still extremely hungry to win trophies in club and international rugby. His record speaks for itself and I have no doubt that he will be an excellent fit for Northampton, both in the side and within the club.”
Gloucester, meanwhile, have confirmed that Cipriani will move to Kingsholm this summer. The 30-year-old’s selection in the squad to tour South Africa, three years after he won his last England cap, is thought to have kept the outhalf in the English club game.
“Having spoken in depth with David Humphreys and Johan Ackermann, the future they have planned for the club is enticing and one that I very much want to be part of,” Cipriani said. “It’s the most exciting move of my career to date.”