Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Care focused on being part of an England victory

Last year it was carefree, a fortnight ago it was careless. Tonight England need to see the real Danny Care.

As the last Six Nations series approached, the halfback was rated third in the national setup as he dealt with his attitude and the aftermath of social indiscretions which had peppered his career.

Like England, the 27-year-old Care found the right notes and rediscovered his best pugnacious form to start every test for England in their Six Nations quest and was marked to start at Eden Park.

However, a random training ground mishap bruised his shoulder and sat him in the grandstand for the opening test of the tour.

Video

Care's recovery is approved and with his Harlequins club mates Chris Robshaw and fullback Mike Brown, the trio are hefty pieces in England's rugby jigsaw.

It's been a bumpy journey for Care ever since England coach Stuart Lancaster wrote to tell a then 15-year-old halfback he had not made the cut for Leeds training academy. When the pair reunited with England, the same coach had to exclude Care from the 2012 international squad after a second alcohol-related incident. It got even more dramatic four months later when Care was arrested for urinating in public after a big night out. Lancaster's advice was unequivocal. That's it, no more, get sorted or take the exit route.

"It was a tough time, even though it was my own doing," Care told the Guardian. It's never nice to read that sort of stuff being said about you. But I'm just glad it's over and I've let my rugby do the talking since then."

Care has been capped 47 times and was set to add to that in Auckland until he damaged his shoulder at training when he fell attempting a grubber kick.

Video

That incident removed one of England's weapons in their spirited start but he has returned to deliver the tempo and poise England need in tonight's quest to share the test series. He is as much a part of England's impressive revival as Lancaster, Brown and Robshaw, as they have restored the bounce in England's confidence.

That has come through hard work and discipline, principles which Lancaster works with and demands of his players. The link between the switch and the light in Care's brain has been rewired.

Players have seen how hard Lancaster and his coaching disciples work, they watch the effort that crew is putting into their graft on a daily basis and have grasped that professional ethic.

Video

Care is finding that balance and with five eighths Owen Farrell, has chiselled out a strong liaison at the hub of England's plans. They are the men Lancaster needs to guide the side to the right parts of Forsyth Barr Stadium tonight and into the group's aspirations for the next World Cup.

Care is more instinctive, Farrell is a diligent five eighths with a low error rate, rugged defence and strong goal-kicking success rate. Together they direct England's ambitions. Like Care's approach to life, those are getting sounder by the week.

- NZ Herald

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 28 Dec 2014 22:09:59 Processing Time: 476ms