"It Means the World to Me" - Danny Care Prepared for 100th England Cap Against Ireland In Six Nations - Ruck

“It Means the World to Me” – Danny Care Prepared for 100th England Cap Against Ireland In Six Nations

England scrum half Danny Care is getting set to become a test match centurion, having been named in Steve Borthwick’s squad to face Ireland tomorrow at Twickenham. Care has been given a spot on the bench for his 100th cap, as England look to upset the favourites for the 2024 Six Nations title.

Borthwick has reshuffled his halfbacks for the fourth round of the Championship, with the returning Alex Mitchell straight back in to the starting nine jersey. With Care pushed down to the bench, Bath scrum-half Ben Spencer misses out on the squad to face Ireland, despite a tempo-lifting performance in the away defeat to Scotland.

Danny Care of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

Only five England men’s players have achieved a century of appearances, (Jason Leonard, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Dan Cole and Courtney Lawes), with Care set to join the exclusive club in tomorrow afternoon’s battle with Ireland. Care spoke about what it means to him to be named amongst such decorated company, and how he has been enjoying the adulation from his teammates and coaching staff in the run up to the match.

“It’s the ‘potentially’ comment, isn’t it? Obviously I’m just delighted to be a part of it. I completely understand Mitch (Alex Mitchell) coming back into the team. He’s a brilliant player and he’s going to lead this team for a long time. So my role’s are a bit different again this year, but it’s a role that I’ve become quite used to and I really enjoy.

Danny Care of England during the England Captains Run at Twickenham Stadium, London on 9 February 2024 (Photo: George Beck/PPAUK)

“So hopefully I get on, and I can help the team in any way I can. Obviously it’ll be a special day for me and the family but also for everyone that’s helped me get to here, from the first coaches, to teachers to parents and grandparents and everyone. It’s a special day for everyone. Touch wood, I get on. I want to win the game. That’s the biggest thing. I’d love it to be something I can look back on. Yes, it’ll be an amazing occasion but I want it to be a win, desperately.

“It means the world to me, it really does. We always say playing for England once is an unbelievable thing to do. But I’ve always said it’s been a bit of an addiction for me. Since that first time, I just wanted to do it again and again and again, and it’s why I’ve never given up on trying to get there. 

“There was a while where I thought it was never going to happen. And then Steve gave me another opportunity to live the dream and wear the shirt again. And then I had this in the back of my head that I’d love to try and be the sixth male to do it. It would be amazing but it’s not about me, it’s about the team and we want to win, we want to bounce back from last week. 

“We’ve got a hell of a challenge to face because there’s a pretty decent team coming. But what an opportunity, what a challenge, to test ourselves against one of the very best in the world.”

“I probably went through stages at the start (of my career) where I was fearless and didn’t really worry about what was going to happen. I was a kid who wanted to play football and ended up playing against New Zealand at 21. Making your debut, you don’t think about things too much.

“Then over the 100, you will go through times where you’re worried about making mistakes and sticking to the game plan. Hopefully now I’m at the end of that, which gives me a freedom to express myself and be myself and just enjoy it.”

As Care discussed, he is excited to make his mark for England in front of his family, who have been a pivotal pillar of support throughout his rugby journey. The Harlequin explained how he had to dip into the savings to bring his family along to Twickenham, but admits that he would not have it any other way than to share his 100th cap with those who mean the most to him.

“When you’re in it, you don’t really think about it. Everyone keeps saying ‘congratulations’ and I’m getting all these texts and it’s great. But I don’t think it’ll really probably sink in until I’ve stopped playing, I’ll be honest and looking back at it. 

“But I’ve got three kids now. As a parent you want to inspire your kids and if they can maybe have a look at my career and go ‘Dad didn’t give up; he kept trying’, then maybe there’s a message out there for them to believe in yourself and keep going. Maybe there’s a message out there for them to believe in yourself and keep going because it would have been quite easy for me to sack it off and not want to do it anymore.

“I’ve always had that drive to wear the shirt again. It might be my last opportunity to wear it at Twickenham, the stadium where I’ve played at a lot of times. I’m desperate to get out there on the weekend and have some fun.

“They’re all here. There’s been a fair few tickets ordered this week, it’s cost me a fair bit of cash. It’s the least I can do for them to share the moment. It’s as much for them as it is for me, my mum and dad especially and obviously the kids and my wife, they’ve been through everything with me. My brother and sister and their families. Everyone’s coming so no pressure! We’ve got to win to make it a good day. It will be a special day.”

Care then went on to explain how he is nervously awaiting his reception after the match, when a certain ‘Fun Bus’ pulls into the changing rooms. It is speculated that Jason Leonard, the first England centurion, has a long night of drinking in store for Care as he passes the phenomenal test match milestone. The legendary Harlequin will be searching for the illlusive halfback, who will try and evade his celebratory clutches, the same way he skips passed defenders out on the Twickenham turf.

“I’ve no idea what happens, I’ll take it as it comes and see what state I’m in at the end of the night!” Care said, after he was reminded of the prospect of a Harlequins reunion with Leonard.

“I think there is something pretty special. Touch wood I will get on and help us win the game, that is my main focus, then try and survive a night with Jason Leonard.”

Care’s milestone celebrations have already begun, as he was bestowed with a unique gift in the run-up to Saturday’s match. During England’s open training session up in York, the England coaching staff were handed the original scouting report on Care, when the scrum-half was a young upstart in the England U20s. The 37-year-old was presented with the award during this week’s training camp, in what was a rather humorous occasion at Pennyhill Park.

“They did. Yep. It was strangely similar to what it is still [true now]. Wiggy (Richard Wigglesworth) got handed it in York and asked to give it to me and he said ‘there’s no way I’m giving it to him yet. I’m going to have some fun first.’ He did a little bit of a montage of good and bad bits from my career. I think the report said ‘he lacks a bit of physicality, box-kicking is slightly inconsistent’.

“I’d say 18 years later it’s still the same. The cool line at the end of it was ‘future England player’. There was also ‘he tries a bit too much and makes a few mistakes but he’ll have a crack’. (Wigglesworth) had a bit of fun with that and it’s come full circle. I’m still quite similar, I’d say.

Care is set to come off the bench, in what will be his 57th replacement appearence on the test match stage. This is also a record for substitute run-ons, as Care has more often been utilised to lift the tempo towards the end of a match. The Harlequin has long been a solid option in the number 21 jersey, and spoke about how he at times prefers the opportunity to win the match and be on the pitch when the referee blows the final whistle.

“Everyone always asks me if I get annoyed being on the bench and I genuinely don’t. It’s not that I prefer it, but I love it. I love that role because you’re on the pitch at the end. You have the ability to help your team win the game and you’re on the pitch for the final whistle. When you’re a starter as a nine, you very rarely play the 80 minutes these days. I enjoy coming on and trying to add something, to inject some pace.

“If you’ve seen something during the game, you can maybe try and work on that. We’ve got a decent bench this weekend with four of my very good mates from the club, there are five of us from Quins on there and three other brilliant players so we can try and be the difference this weekend. We’re going to get on there and give it a go. That role for me, I enjoy it. I’m going to embrace it and have some fun.”

“The Grand Slam try in 2016 will always be my favourite memory in an England shirt. It would be amazing tomorrow if there was something to rival that. There have been, obviously, some tough ones but then you have to have those ones to really appreciate the amazing ones and that feeling of scoring a try in that game, to win a Slam was incredible and hopefully there is something like that tomorrow.”