Danny Care will only celebrate becoming England’s most capped scrum-half if Wales are dispatched in his most eagerly awaited fixture of the season.
Yorkshireman Care will surpass Matt Dawson’s record of 77 Red Rose appearances when Wales visit Twickenham today after being asked to fill the vacancy left by Ben Youngs’s NatWest 6 Nations-ending knee injury.
I’ve never looked too far ahead and never thought I’d reach this point, especially after how badly we were beaten by the All Blacks in my first couple of capsDanny Care
World Cup winner Dawson has already been in contact to offer congratulations, and his family –including son Blake decked out in his ‘Care 9’ jersey – will be present for a day that must end in triumph if it is to be truly savoured.
“It’s a massive honour to overtake Matt, who was a hero of mine growing up,” said Leeds-born Care.
“I loved the way he played the game, so to overtake him in caps is brilliant.
“He texted me last weekend to say well done when I equalled his record, but he said he’d save the soppy one for Saturday.
“It’s a massive game any time you play Wales in the Six Nations.
“It’s the one you get up for, you think about all season and it’s coming this Saturday.
“My main motto throughout my career has been to enjoy every moment and what can’t you enjoy about England versus Wales at home in front of 82,000 when you’re breaking the record as England’s most capped scrum-half?
“It will be a special day for me and my family, but it won’t count for much unless we get the win. Hopefully after the game I can celebrate then.”
Care made his debut in New Zealand a decade ago, initially as a replacement in the first Test in Auckland and then as a starter in Christchurch a week later. Both matches ended in heavy defeats.
“I’ve never looked too far ahead and never thought I’d reach this point, especially after how badly we were beaten by the All Blacks in my first couple of caps,” reflected Care, who after an unsuccessful stint trying to become a professional footballer with Sheffield Wednesday, learned to play rugby union in the academy at Leeds Tykes.
“It’s been brilliant and one hell of a journey and I want to get 78 more if I can because I love playing for England.
“I’ve got a slightly better haircut now compared to back then, but not too much! I’m probably a bit wiser and I’d hope not as rash.
“I’ve played in some big games and have experienced highs and lows.
“Hopefully that’s moulded me into the player I am now.”
The ruptured MCL that has potentially ended Youngs’s season has offered Care the opportunity to prove to Eddie Jones that he should be viewed as more than a replacement.
Of his 77 appearances, 43 of them have come from the bench and it is a trend that has accelerated under Jones, who has started the Harlequin in only six of his 24 Tests in charge.
“Eddie’s told me to back myself, the first decision that comes into your head is probably the right one,” said Care. “Ben is a great leader and is a loss, but it’s great for me to come in and show what I can do from the start.”
Courtney Lawes insists England are intent on unsettling Rhys Patchell.
Jones has questioned whether Patchell, his team’s third choice fly-half, has the “bottle” to reproduce his heroics in the round one thumping of Scotland in the more challenging environment of Twickenham.
Lawes is England’s most ferocious tackler, but the Northampton lock insists England will “hunt” Wales as a collective rather than look to rely on any one player.
“Patchell’s a good player. He’s quick and he’s got some skills, but as a team we’ll put him under pressure and make it very difficult for him,” Lawes said “We’re hunting Wales this week. It honestly doesn’t matter who is running down my channel or who is in front of me, I’m there to do my job and make an effective tackle.
“But I’m not going to fly out of the line and try to make a difference myself. That’s not what the team needs from me. We’re going to get off the line and hunt Wales as a team.
“We have prepared very diligently and we know their key men and the people we need to keep an eye on.”