Wasps have confirmed widespread speculation that Danny Cipriani will return to the Aviva Premiership club next season, almost six years after first leaving in order to embark upon a spell with Australian Super 15 outfit the Melbourne Rebels. The divisive fly-half has been with Sale Sharks since 2012, a period in which he has steadily rebuilt his career and worked his way back into international contention for England.
Cipriani was controversially omitted from Stuart Lancaster's 31-man squad for the 2015 World Cup shambles on home soil, despite proving his worth at club level and providing a try-scoring cameo during the 25-20 warm-up defeat to France in Paris. Hopes that the 28-year-old would return to the fold for the current Six Nations were quickly doused as he was left out of new head coach Eddie Jones' first Elite Player Squad (EPS).
In an official club statement to formally announce his return, Cipriani said: "I'm excited about returning to Wasps next season. For me, it really does feel like coming home. In the professional era, players naturally move clubs more frequently than they used to, but I still feel such a strong connection with Wasps. It's where I learned my trade, alongside incredible players like Lawrence Dallaglio, Joe Worsley, Alex King, Fraser Waters, Josh Lewsey and Paul Sackey."
The player also cited a desire for a new challenge from next season and hailed the work and ambition involved in stabilising Wasps, who relocated from Wycombe's Adams Park to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry in 2014, under director of rugby Dai Young and owner Derek Richardson.
The six-time English champions previously endured something of a financial crisis that almost saw them relegated to the second tier back in 2012, but have gradually improved since then and moved up to fourth place on 14 February with an eight-try 64-23 mauling away to leaders Saracens. They have also progressed through to the quarter-finals of the European Rugby Champions Cup, where they will face domestic rivals Exeter Chiefs.
"We have always been keen for Danny to return to Wasps and I'm really pleased that our Wasps fans, many of whom supported Danny as a young lad here, will be able to see him in a Wasps shirt again," Young added.
"Everyone knows how talented a player Danny is and how much his game has developed since he made such an impact for England at a young age. As well as his obvious attacking attributes, Danny has matured as a player and controls the game well as a 10. At 28, there is still plenty more to come from him, so we are looking forward to seeing the contribution he will make in a Wasps shirt, alongside our other talented fly-halves, in the exciting backline we have."
Sale have yet to comment on the impending departure, although Young's counterpart Steve Diamond confirmed after a 38-10 drubbing of London Irish last month that he expected Cipriani to remain at AJ Bell Stadium beyond the summer. The Times report that he had initially agreed a deal with Harlequins before Conor O'Shea announced his intention to leave, while Top 14 giants Toulon were also interested.