Danny Care made history on Saturday by becoming England’s most capped scrum-half – and says his ability to survive at the top for 10 years is down to a far greater maturity.
The 31-year-old Harlequins star – described as “an impudent scallywag” on the field by club boss John Kingston – looked to be on borrowed time six years ago when left out of Stuart Lancaster’s England squad after three alcohol-related incidents.
But he earned his 78th cap in the 12-6 Six Nations victory over Wales at the weekend to eclipse the previous benchmark set by World Cup winner Matt Dawson. And his experience of the big occasion was vital in helping England over the line in the tensest of encounters.
“I’m a bit wiser now,” he said. “Not as rash, been part of big games and experienced highs and lows which has moulded me into the player I am now. I feel fully equipped to go out there and do my thing.
“Every time you put on a number nine shirt, there is pressure on you to perform and manage a game, especially England v Wales at Twickenham, but the main motto throughout my career has been ‘enjoy it.’
“It’s a massive honour to overtake Matt, who was a hero of mine growing up. He was someone I looked up to and aspired to be like one day. I loved the way he played the game.”
Care, who made his international debut against New Zealand as a 21-year-old in 2008, has shared the scrum-half duties with Ben Youngs in recent seasons, often being chosen as a ‘finisher’ off the bench. But a knee injury to Youngs gave him a starting role and the prospect of an extended run.
His box-kicking and sniping around the breakdowns played a big part in driving England to their second win of the tournament in as many games, and on course for a record-breaking third successive Six Nations title under Eddie Jones.
“I sound like his dad, but he is a very grounded young man now,” a proud Kingston said.
“He went through his own disappointments, but he showed his resilience, took an opportunity to take things forward and to understand right from wrong.
“For me, he is the complete all-rounder now. He can run and cause chaos, but the other areas of his game are of a higher standard than ever before.”