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Cipriani leader due to position: Macqueen

Melissa Woods 14/01/2011 05:22:08 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne Rebels coach Rod Macqueen says wayward England star Danny Cipriani will be vice-captain for their historic first rugby outing against Tonga on Saturday night, but for positional rather than personal reasons.

Macqueen downplayed a report out of England that Cipriani would be given extra responsibilities during the Olympic Park clash in an attempt to draw the best out of the controversial five-eighth.

The club has shielded Cipriani from the media since his arrival in Melbourne, determined for him to be known for his rugby rather than his celebrity antics and famous girlfriends, which caused him to fall out of favour with the England rugby hierarchy.

Despite the ban, he has still managed to attract attention by taking former Neighbours actress Stephanie McIntosh to a club function last week.

"That's not true," Macqueen said when asked whether Cipriani had been given a leadership role to keep his focus on rugby.

"We won't announce our captain or vice-captains for the next couple of weeks.

"This is pretty typical of what the English press are doing, it's all hype.

"In trials we just use the No.8s and five-eighths as captains and vice-captains.

"Because we do that it means that he will end up being one of the vice-captains."

The international flavour of the new Super rugby side will be at the forefront for their match with Welshman Gareth Delve, playing No.8 and therefore captain.

Melbourne won't name their official captain for the season until just prior to the opening Super rugby match against the NSW Waratahs on Feb 18, with former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock, who is still recovering from back surgery, the favourite.

The coach has a raft of players to chose from with 13 of the 32-strong squad former team captains, with former Welsh international Delve the skipper at English club Gloucester before his move to Melbourne.

Most of the Melbourne squad will play a half with Cipriani to split histime at five-eighth and fullback, as will James Hilgendorf.

"He's obviously got a high profile and that's difficult when you've come from overseas and you're in a team environment and so we've tried to protect him from that profile with the press," Macqueen said.

"That's been good for him, he's been able to settle down and work with the team.

"He's quite respected amongst the players but we're making an effort to keep him away from the profile he's had overseas because that's one of the things that brought him undone."

Macqueen said there were no plans to make Cipriani a public figurehead of the club any time soon.

"The reality is that he's here to play rugby and that's what he wants to do.

"The more distraction he gets like that, it more it takes away from what he wants to do."

The Rebels will play four quarters against Tonga, who are beginning preparations for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand later this year.

"I suspect there will be quite a lot of dropped ball and mistakes because it's our first time together but I've been happy with their progress," Macqueen said.

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