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'He was almost like a second dad, middle of the night phone calls'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

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Recalled England scrum-half Danny Care has reflected on his early years at Harlequins, recalling how the London club quickly convinced him to sign and then the invaluable mentorship that was provided Conor O’Shea, the club’s 2011/2012 Premiership title-winning coach. 

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The 35-year-old from Leeds was this week brought back into the England set-up for the first time since the last of his 84 Test caps in November 2018. He will now provide cover from the bench to Harry Randall in this Sunday’s non-cap international versus the Barbarians and is in with a shout of touring Australia in the coming weeks with his country. 

Care began his professional career with Leeds in 2004 but he switched to Harlequins two years later and he is still there, his compelling form in this season’s 2021/22 Premiership eventually convincing Eddie Jones that he was worth an England recall.  

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In the build-up to Sunday’s comeback appearance, Care featured in Hell and Back, the story of the 2011/12 Harlequins season that was broadcast by BT Sport on Friday night in the run-up to Saturday’s latest Premiership final, the meeting of Saracens and Leicester.  

In the documentary, Care initially explained how he came to sign for Harlequins at a time when Dean Richards was in charge. “I met with Dean Richards, Andy Friend and Mark Evans and they sold me the club in five minutes. They said, ‘You can do whatever you want, we’re going to build a team around you’.”

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Care went on to outline that the treatment of Harlequins by Martin Johnson’s England at the 2011 World Cup became the catalyst for the club’s breakthrough Premiership title win. “There was a few of us at Quins that were either not selected or injured and didn’t go that World Cup. Mike Brown, Chris Robshaw, we all went, ‘Right. Let’s show ’em’.”

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By then, O’Shea, the former Ireland full-back, had taken charge at Harlequins and had become an incredible mentor to Care. “Conor obviously came into the club when we were in a little bit of turmoil. 

“We needed someone like Conor to steady the ship and set us back on course. Conor, for me, was almost like a second dad. Middle of the night phone calls – he probably got a couple from a couple of police stations with me.” 

Care added that it was a defeat to Leicester in April 2012 that catapulted Harlequins to the title as they knew they did enough in that loss to be able to beat the Tigers where they came across them again in the showpiece Twickenham final.

“Conor was great after that game. He said, ‘I’m so happy, I’m so proud of you’. We were like, ‘We have just lost’. He said, ‘I don’t care, we know how to beat them now’.” He was right. 

  • BT Sport’s Rugby Stories documentary series continued with Hell and Back, the story of the 2011/12 Harlequins season. For more information visit bt.com/sport
  • Here are the latest repeat broadcast details: June 24 – BT Sport 3 (4.3opm); July 11 – BT Sport 1 (10:30pm); July 18: BT Sport 2 (11.0am); Aug 2: BT Sport 1 (8.30am); Aug 9: BT Sport 1 (8.30)
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