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Cipriani to head home early after Rebels exit

SINCE March, Danny Cipriani has been going; as of yesterday, the Melbourne Rebels' English import is gone. The Rebels have released Cipriani, effective immediately, severing a controversial 18-month relationship eight rounds before it was due to expire.

The five-eighth was in the last of his two Super Rugby seasons with the Rebels, having agreed to a three-year deal with the Sale Sharks in northern England, while long coveting a return to the national side.

Cipriani played the last of his seven Tests in 2008.

Rebels chief executive Steve Boland said Cipriani left with the club's blessing after scoring 122 points in 19 games, including the goal that won the new team's first game last year.

''Essentially the time is right for both parties to part company,'' Boland said of a decision he described as ''amicable'', and one he said was set in motion by Cipriani's commitment to the Sharks.

''As soon as Danny decided to return to England at the completion of this year and sign with Sale … we had some discussions with his Australian representative that [if] at any time over that period … he'd be better served by going back and preparing for the next England season that we were open to that discussion, because it's sort of a funny situation where the seasons cross over to some degree.


''So we had that discussion a few weeks ago and we received that approach last week and completed those negotiations this afternoon.''

Cipriani will return to England this week and will do a full pre-season with the Sharks.

"Danny believes that leaving now will give him the best chance to prepare for the long season ahead with Sale," Rebels coach Damien Hill said.

In Melbourne, the 24-year-old has rarely been far from the headlines, and was suspended for a month for off-field indiscretions last year. More recently, he has been considered an unhealthy influence on the likes of star recruits James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, while his inconsistent form meant he was expected to be dropped for Friday night's game against the Bulls at AAMI Park.

"I want to thank the club for being so understanding with my wishes and granting me a release to return to England," Cipriani said. "I've made no secret of my desire to play for England again, and I believe leaving now will give me the best opportunity to do that.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time in Melbourne at the Rebels. I've made some lifelong friends, played in front of an incredible set of fans in an amazing stadium and improved my game playing in one of the best provincial rugby competitions in the world.

"I feel I have developed my game in my time in Australia and become a more complete player.

''I wish the Rebels every success in the future, and should the opportunity ever arise again I would not hesitate to return."