Cipriani happy at Sale - but only if the Sharks strengthen
Danny Cipriani is prepared to commit his long-term future to Sale, as long as the club can match his own ambitions.
The 26-year-old former Wasps fly-half, who forced his way back into the England squad this summer after re-igniting his career with the Manchester club, is about to start the last season of his three-year contract and admits he is tempted to extend his stay in the north of England.
"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time up here," Cipriani told Press Association Sport at Sale's pre-season media day at the AJ Bell Stadium.
"If we keep striving and keep being ambitious, then it's a club that I am going to want to stay at. I've made a lot of friends here and the staff and the players are excellent.
"If the ambition is to add to our squad in a powerful way, it's somewhere that I'd want to be."
Cipriani says he is not yet ready to open talks with the Sharks but is determined not to allow the speculation to affect his game in the way that Freddie Burns clearly lost focus while finalising his close-season move from Gloucester to Leicester.
"Pre-season has been pretty hectic," Cipriani said. "I just want to get the first couple of games out of the way and then, when there's a break or a bit more time to talk about it, I'll just get on with it.
"But I'm not going to let it clog my mind because, you saw with Freddie last year, he had the whole year thinking about where he's going to go. So if it happens, it happens. I'm just going to worry about my rugby at the moment."
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond is keen to keep hold of the gifted playmaker but acknowledges the player's desire to be part of a successful team.
"He's pretty settled here," said Diamond. "I think we've got to show, as a club, our intent moving forward with our recruitment policy like we've done this year."
Sale, who finished sixth in the Aviva Premiership last season, have lost several first-team regulars, including Dwayne Peel, Rob Miller and Henry Thomas, but plugged the gaps with the addition of Italians Luke McLean and Alberto Di Marchi and Scotland duo Nathan Hines and Chris Cusiter as well as Magnus Lund and Georgia international hooker Shalva Mamukashvili.
Cipriani was recalled to the England team after a six-year absence for the tour to New Zealand earlier this year and is now hoping to catch the eye of Stuart Lancaster ahead of the autumn internationals, although he is refusing look as far as the 2015 World Cup.
"I can't even think about that yet," he said. "It's been said that the squad announcement has been delayed so you've got to play well in the first six games and, if you do, you get picked.
"So it's in your own hands and there is no point thinking about those things, apart from preparing for it."
Cipriani, who has scored 385 points since joining the Sharks from Melbourne Rebels two years ago, was delighted with his form last season but believes there is much more to come from him.
"Massively," he said. "I've a lot of things to develop.
"Last year I showed a different side to my game in terms of playing on the back foot perhaps and more the kicking game. I'm excited about this season. I'm hopefully going to bring more to my armoury."
Having seen his bold gamble in bringing the wayward star back to the Premiership pay off handsomely, Diamond believes he can go on to become England's number one fly-half.
"What Danny has done brilliantly well is to become a real team player," he said. "He contributes to everything we do, that's where he's matured. If he continues on that upward curve, the world is his oyster.
"I think it's a great decision by the England management not to pick the EPS squad until October so they can pick from form. Hopefully, the likes of Mike Paterson and Danny Cip can show in the first six weeks what they're all about."
Cipriani acknowledges that Sale, who begin the new season at Bath on September 6, will be hard pressed to improve on last year's sixth-placed finish but insists they will be especially tough to beat at home.
"We know we've got a tough task this year because there will be more expectation on us but we're excited about that and we've been preparing really well," he said.
"When the going gets tough, we've proven that we stay in the fight and can win those games. Teams don't like coming up here to play against us so we're not going to make it easy for them."