‘I love being a part of the best England team I have played in’
Danny Care explains to Ben Coles why he is happy playing role of one of Jones’ finishers
The connection is often made between an athlete’s on-field and off-field happiness, and based on Danny Care’s recent performances, the Harlequins and England scrum-half seems extremely content.
In his first outing for Harlequins following the autumn internationals, Care produced three assists, all with the boot, in a stirring fightback last Sunday to help defeat Saracens. One of the first to congratulate him was his son, Blake, running onto the field into the arms of his beaming father.
A couple of weeks earlier, he had killed off Australia’s hopes at Twickenham, where Harlequins return this month for Big Game 10, with two kick-assists for tries by Jonathan Joseph and Jonny May.
At no point in Care’s career has his time spent in Sheffield Wednesday’s academy during his youth ever been more pertinent.
Care turns 31 next month, and has spent the majority of his career in and around the England squad, which might be why he was thinking more about the bigger picture when savouring his try in the corner against Australia in front of his young family. It also puts him in a position to claim that this current England side are the best that he has been a part of.
“You have to enjoy it,” he said. “Hopefully, I have a few more years left in an England shirt but you have to enjoy those moments, to score in the last minute of a Test match.
“Looking at the squad, I have been around the England team for around seven to eight years now. There is a great mix of older lads and youth players. The average age I imagine is about 24 to 25.
“This is the best England team that I have been a part of, and I love going to the training sessions and playing for my country.”
Being part of that team also means having to settle for a role as a “finisher”, Eddie Jones’s favoured term for his replacements, and a part which Care has arguably played with more success over the past two years than any other England player.
Six starts have come in 23 appearances since Jones took over, including the result that clinched a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2016, when Care opened the scoring against France in Paris. Yet Care, and the rest of the squad, now accept it fully if they are being saved for each Test’s second act.
“Everyone in that squad has a role and very rarely do people not get on the field,” Care explains. “There is a squad buy-in that we have. The starters will work as hard as they can to create a good platform for the finishers to then come on and hopefully win the game.”
Back at Harlequins, there has been less concern this season regarding starters and finishers, and more over who is actually available. At one point in October, more than 25 players had been ruled out from both the first-team squad and academy, an increase for Care that correlates with rugby’s evolution.
“We have had the biggest injury list I have ever seen in rugby this year,” he says. “I don’t think you can put it down to one thing. A few teams have had it and there are a lot more head knocks being picked up, which stand you down for a week.
“Guys are getting bigger, faster, stronger, which is the way the game is going. There are going to be more collisions and more injuries.
“If you look at the game 10 to 11 years ago compared to now, it is a completely different sport. The speed of the ball is quicker, more numbers are on their feet, given there is more competition at the breakdown. That means more defenders, more brick walls for the lads to run into. That is all going to take a toll on the body.”
If there is a silver lining to that injury crisis, however, then it must be how Harlequins’ young players have put their hands up during a tricky period, keeping within sight of the top four in the Premiership before the return of Care and the club’s other internationals.
Not bad considering the club parted ways with Marland Yarde at a time when numbers were thin on the ground. Talented as Yarde undoubtedly is, the club appear to be in a better place now, moving into a busy festive schedule which will be headlined by Big Game 10 on Dec 30 against Northampton at Twickenham.
“[Marland] is a brilliant player. It was sad that he left under the circumstances, but I think it is the best thing for him and also the best thing for the club,” says Care. “The decision was taken to part ways and I think he is enjoying his life up at Sale.
“It just shows that no player is bigger than the club. The boss has to put the club first.
“Our young lads have been given opportunities to play, which they might not normally have had, and each one that has put on a Harlequins shirt this year has done themselves proud.”
Danny Care was speaking ahead of Big Game 10 at Twickenham Stadium, Dec 30, in association with IG Trading and Investments. Tickets are available at tickets.quins.co.uk
Talisman: Danny Care transferred his form for England to Harlequins in their impressive victory over Saracens last weekend