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Danny Care: 'My old man texted I've played at Twickenham 90 times'

By Jon Newcombe
Harlequins' Danny Care (Photo by Bob Bradford/CameraSport via Getty Images)

It’s a throwaway line often used in sport, that a player who has frequented a particular ground over several years must know every blade of grass.

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In the case of the hallowed turf of Twickenham Stadium, other than former long-standing RFU groundsman Keith Kent, no one knows what it feels like to step onto the pristine-like surface more than Danny Care.

The veteran scrum-half has played as a schoolboy there, for Otley’s Prince Henry’s, for England in 7s and 15s, and of course, for his club Harlequins whenever they take their showcase matches there.

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Former Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo chats to Liam Heagney about when he reached his peak and how he was actually at one stage considered too big to play rugby.

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Nemani Nadolo on his peak and once being considered “too big”

Former Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo chats to Liam Heagney about when he reached his peak and how he was actually at one stage considered too big to play rugby.

“My first game at Twickenham was actually with school, we played in the Daily Mail Vase final. I played fly-half, which was awesome, and we won it,” recalled the now 37-year-old.

“I’ll never forget running out as a kid with tears in my eyes thinking, ‘This is class, this is cool, I’d love to do this more often’. My old man texted me this week; he reckons I have played at Twickenham 90 times; he reckons this is my 90th. He knows everything, he’s a nause.

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“Has anyone played more at Twickenham; I don’t know? I’d love to know that. It’s been a few times, but it is the most special stadium in the world. I’m very lucky I have got to play there 90 times and, hopefully, I get to play there a few more.”

Care’s father would appear to be spot on with his numbers. Renowned rugby statistician Stuart Farmer has Care down for 86 senior games at Twickenham, including 7s, five more than fellow scrum-half and caps centurion Ben Youngs, and 10 more than former England captain Owen Farrell.

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Care made his international debut at English rugby HQ in May 2007, playing alongside the likes of Ben Foden and current GB head coach Tony Roques, for England 7s against Portugal on the HSBC World Series.

His senior England 15s debut at Twickenham came three caps into his Test career, against the Pacific Islanders in November 2008 – the same year that Harlequins launched their Big Game concept, which is now in its 15th iteration. Care started the 26-26 draw against Leicester, an edge-of-your-seat contest that set the tone for future matches there.

Not content with just one showcase game per year, innovative Harlequins are also three games into the ‘Big Summer Kick-off’ series, with this Saturday’s crunch match against Premiership leaders Northampton the latest match to cross the A306 and be played at ‘The Big Stoop’.

Harlequins have a 75 per cent win record at the famous rugby arena and Care, who is on the eve of his 280th Premiership appearance, claimed that playing there always lifts his team.

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“It’s amazing we get to do it in club form. We are the only club that gets to walk from our ground to the home of rugby, Twickenham, and it is never lost on the players that the fans come over and give us that guard of honour, it is an incredible feeling.

“Something happens to us at a club whenever we get to play over there, we love doing it. I am very proud of being from this club that has pioneered the way of taking games to big stadiums and seems to keep doing it and try and do it bigger and better.

“It is our job as players to showcase that and try and show our stuff on the pitch, so we want to have some fireworks on it as well.”

With free-flowing Saints in town and play-off contenders Harlequins renowned for their thrilling brand of rugby, the Saturday afternoon match-up promises to be an absolute belter. Care’s duel with England colleague Alex Mitchell will be worth the ticket price alone.

“He’s a brilliant rugby player, he has really taken his opportunities in the last year to make that England No9 shirt his own,” he said of Mitchell. “In a way I kind of feel like an older brother, I feel quite proud of him with what he has done – to bounce back from being sent home from the England World Cup training squad and be out of the three (scrum-halves) and steam past us all.

“He took it and ran with it, and made it (the No.9 shirt) his own, so we are very aware of him, the threat that he poses; he is the heartbeat of that team, and he has been for the last few years, so we will have to defend very well to stop him and Fin (Smith), they have got a brilliant little combination going there, so ‘D’ is going to be big for us this weekend.”

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Alex 55 days ago

Ever so often you all post a Danny Care story that isn’t the announcement that he has finally re-signed for one more, victory tour season at Quins and I’m just like, “well you fooled me again!” My absolute favorite player ever, we need to make his final year at the Stoop (and Twickers) official already. I know he supposedly snubbed France but I won’t feel better until he signs.

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