ENGLAND scrum-half Danny Care last night thanked Otley for helping make his Rugby World Cup dream come true.
The former Leeds Tykes scrum-half is involved in his first such tournament as the hosts – who open proceedings against Fiji at Twickenham tonight – begin the quest to try to emulate the heroics of 2003.
Care, who has won 52 Test caps, famously almost became a footballer, having been on the books of Sheffield Wednesday as a teenager.
But the Leeds-born player decided on a different path, having been persuaded to join the West Yorkshire rugby club, who currently reside in National Two North and celebrated their 150th anniversary last Saturday.
Care, 28, told The Yorkshire Post: “Otley had a pretty huge role in me deciding to go down the rugby route.
“A lot of my mates at school (Prince Henry’s Grammar, Otley) whom I played rugby with played for Otley, too, and they kept banging on at me to come down.
“I kept saying I was a footballer so I wasn’t going to go. But then I went and played a season with them at Under-16s and we went on a ‘lads and dads’ tour to Dublin and I pretty much fell in love with it there and then.
“It was an awesome tour just playing rugby and having a laugh with the lads so I joined after that.
“I had a great season with them and got picked for Leeds from that so I do owe them a lot.”
The Harlequins No 9 has not managed to force his way into Stuart Lancaster’s match-day 23 for tonight’s opener – Ben Youngs starts to win his 50th cap and Saracens’ Richard Wigglesworth is on the bench – but hopes to play a part in next Saturday’s Pool A game against Wales.
Sam Burgess, from Dewsbury, and York-born Rob Webber are Broad Acres representatives among the replacements tonight for Lancaster.
Care, who played 13 times for the Tykes before joining Quins in 2006, was selected for the 2011 World Cup, but never travelled to New Zealand after breaking a toe during a warm-up game.
He said: “This is my first time in a World Cup so it is exciting. I think the squad we’ve got is fantastic and we have a really good chance to go all the way.
“That starts on Friday with a massive game against Fiji. We’ll build from there; we appreciate all the great support we’re getting and the boys can’t wait to get out there.
“Congratulations from me, too, as a proud Yorkshire lad, to Otley, on their recent milestone.
“Coming through their ranks, I’m proud to have played a tiny bit in their history so thanks a lot for having me and here’s to another 150 years.
“The spirit down there is great and if ever anyone wants to go watch a game you want to go watch Otley at Cross Green.
“They look after you well and it is a really well-run club.
“People enjoy themselves down there; I think it epitomises what rugby is all about.”
Players who dive or feign injury at the Rugby World Cup run the risk of being sin-binned as the game’s governing body attempts to eradicate what it regards as ‘football-style’ behaviour.
John Jeffrey, chairman of the World Rugby match officials selection committee, revealed that referees have been told to issue yellow cards in an attempt to crack down on simulation and other such undesirable behaviour.
“Diving would be ungentlemanly conduct. It would be a straight yellow card,” said Jeffrey. “There is a culture creeping in – I call it the football culture – of simulation; people appealing to the referee, players diving. That is going to be sanctioned very heavily.”