Danny Care is preparing for three vital Premiership games that will have a dramatic effect on Harlequins season and his ability to grab the England scrum half place from rival Ben Youngs into the Six Nations championship.
Care last started a test match for England in the Grand Slam winning victory in France in March, grabbing a vital try. Since then has been restricted to replacement appearances as head coach Eddie Jones has started with Youngs, who won Man of the Match in the win over Australia to ensure the team finished 2016 unbeaten.
Quins are currently sixth in the Premiership with 23points, the same as eighth placed Gloucester who they tackle in the annual Big Game match at Twickenham on December 27 and then a face trip to Worcester (11th) on New Year’s Day and are home to Sale (10th) on January 7.
Care has the added pressure of being the captain during the club’s 150th anniversary season and finishing the campaign with silverware is a major driving factor which makes the need to deliver maximum points from the next three Premiership games absolutely vital.
Care, who has won 66 caps, said: “ Youngsy played well in the games and I understand that Eddie couldn’t change things because the team was going so well and so I have to keep working hard and push my case forward. Gloucester at Twickenham in the Big Game is huge for me and the club.
“ This is a big Christmas period for Quins with the three Premiership games that will mould the rest of the season. If we win all three then it puts us in a really good position and if we don’t then it will mean having to work incredibly hard to get where we want to be. We don’t want to be left behind and need to kick start the season.”
With Quins having missed out on European Champions Cup this season, the scrum half is operating in the lower profile Challenge Cup – they lost in last season’s final 26-19 to Montpellier – and has just finished back-to-back big wins over Romanian minnows Timisoara Saracens, which rammed home the need to qualify for the major tournament next season.
He said: “I had never been to Romania and it is very different to be playing in front of a packed Twickenham with 82,000 fans against Australia to a European game in front of around 300 people in a 40,000 seater stadium. It certainly was different!
“ Being in the Champions Cup next season is driving us on massively and we are in all three competitions this season and want to get to the knock- out stages of all of them and win one, if not all of them. Other England squad players took on Munster or Leinster back-to-back and no disrespect to Timisoara Saracens, but it is not the competition we want to be in.
“However, we haven’t been good enough to achieve that in the last couple of seasons to warrant a place and too many teams have been better than us in the Premiership. This is a big year and we want to push on and the Gloucester game is the first of three key matches. We have had injury problems and players away on international duty, but every team has to deal with different pressures at this time of the year when the games come thick and fast.”
Quins received a major boost in the build up to the Gloucester match with former Australian captain James Horwill extending his contract with the club until 2020. He is one of the key forwards at the club and his experienced is being utilised to help the impressive group of Academy players that are being produced by Quins.
With a squad boasting Adam Jones, Jamie Roberts, Nick Evans, Mike Brown, Joe Marler, Chris Robshaw, Tim Visser, Jack Clifford and Marland Yarde, Quins have the firepower to be a major force and Care is determined to help deliver the wins needed to make this 150th season special. “ We want to put in a good series of performances to end this year well and then start the new one with some wins.”
As seen in the Evening Standard