Twelve months ago it was hope for Danny Care. He was in exile in England for almost three years but his form was not ignored by British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland so he received a letter confirming that he was on their long list. When the squad was finally announced, however, Care’s name was missing and with that seemed to come any chance of an international pardon.
That explains why Care took no chances after making his first appearance in England since November 2018 against the Barbarians on Sunday, some 16 hours before Eddie Jones finalized his Tour of Australia squad.
Related: ‘We’ve got to go after them’: Eddie Jones ready for rough reception in Australia
So his return is a testament to both his form and his stamina.
Jones had, as is often the case, refused to be swayed by public support for Care, who has excelled for Harlequins since his last cap in England. However, in late April he sent Care a congratulatory message on his form and the 35-year-old saw his chance.
He decided to “take his shot” and ask Jones to meet where he would try to convince the head coach of his desire to revive his England career.
The pair didn’t always agree, but Jones will appreciate the bold approach and with the modern game – not to mention Australia’s fast pitches – suited to a Livewire scrum half, Care’s shot hit the target.
“It’s something you think will never happen again. Deep down you’re going, ‘Maybe there’s a chance.’ I was just trying to enjoy it and love every second of it.”
In fact, it seems that Care’s ability to let go of the disappointment that he finds himself outside and looking within is what ultimately led to his return.
“I definitely think I’m a better player now than I was four years ago. Even three years ago. The main thing I try to focus on is having fun, getting the best out of the game and trying to help the team. That frees me when I don’t think about things too much, that’s my kind of play, the instinctive kind of play. When I think about things, I’m not playing my best rugby.
“That’s what I try to do, I try to play without fear, be brave and have fun. When you’ve been around for a while, like me, you appreciate what you’re doing, you’re playing for England. But if you can’t do that anymore, you can’t get in anymore, you want it even more.”
Care is one of 10 players – and just three defenders – in the current squad who were part of the group that clinched England’s first straight win in Australia six years ago, so his experience will be crucial in helping the likes of his team-mate Marcus Smith from the United States Helping Harlequins Adapt to the rigors of touring Down Under.
Echoing Jones’ recent warning, Care acknowledged that England are not very popular in Australia but believes England’s only tour of this World Cup cycle could prove crucial in shaping Jones’ squad for France 2023.
“If you go to Australia you have to be brave, you have to try to win the game. It’s not a popular place, which is great. I think the young lads will enjoy it very much. I think it’s a great opportunity to build a great relationship that hopefully will last and be of great help to us going into the fall and the Six Nations and hopefully the World Cup. Going to places like Australia, going into hostile environments and trying to get a win is going to be really beneficial for some of these boys.
“Every game for Eddie, you know how he is, he’s a winner, he wants to win every single game. He wants to get better with every single training session and when it’s against his old team and of course where he’s from, I think it adds a bit more spice. England vs Australia no longer needs to be inflated. It means as much to them as it does to us and I’m sure the team will give their all.”