'He's like a social glue player': Why Danny Care is back to his best aged 34 and winning individual awards with Harlequins
It was like old times the other day at Harlequins with Danny Care being named the Gallagher Premiership player of the month for March. The scrum-half used to be a regular contender for such accolades and while his form dipped in recent years, he is now back at the top of his game at the ripe veteran age of 34.
Similar to the rejuvenation seen in Mike Brown, the resurgence of Care in recent months has been pivotal in the rise of Harlequins back up the Premiership table and into the playoff positions with seven rounds matches remaining.
The scrum-half hasn’t been capped since November 2018 but such has been his current rich vein of form that he has even been speculated as an outside contender for Lions tour selection. While that might be a leap for a player who hasn’t featured at Test level in 29 months, Harlequins are revelling in the form Care is showing and were delighted when he extended his contract in January just days after Paul Gustard departed as director of rugby.
With a home game versus Worcester their next assignment as they hunt down a league semi-final appearance, Harlequins assistant Jerry Flannery has lauded the behind the scenes work that has gone a long way in ensuring that 30-something players such as Care are in fantastic form heading into the business end of the 2020/21 season.
“I don’t have a point of reference as to what he was like when he was younger but I will say that the S&C and the medical here are very, very careful here about making sure that we keep the best players available all the time,” explained Flannery, who joined the London club last summer after starting his post-playing coaching career at Munster.
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“When you look at the way Brownie has been performing for us and you look at the way Danny has been performing, they are getting the balance right there because you are asking lads to play in an incredibly physical league, you are asking them to pitch up week in week out.
“There has to be some give and take and, as coaches, we take a lot of direction from Mike Lancaster (head of medical) and they would make sure we are not wasting any of the players’ energy unnecessarily during the weeks so they have it for the weekend. Danny would be a really good example of that because the way Danny plays it’s all about being sharp. If Danny is in any way overly fatigued going into the game he is not going to be at his best.
“He has been outstanding for us, he really has been outstanding,” continued Flannery. “I would have played against Danny when I was back with Munster and with Ireland and he was always a player that we would have highlighted because of individual threat.
“He’s really popular within the squad, he is like a social glue player. When you are around Danny he is so charming, he makes everyone feel good. He is a good guy to have in the squad like that and on top of that, when he plays the way he is playing at the moment – everyone sees him as the guy who has got the magic plays but when I look at it, defensively he has made massive, massive plays for us over the last six, seven weeks as well.
“That and his kicking game, when those things are there allied to his natural ability to linebreak and create, that is probably why he is Premiership player of the month,” said Flannery, adding that Care’s defence was something that didn’t demand attention when he lined up against him as an opposition player.
“We would have highlighted him more as an individual threat, as an attacking threat when we would have played, he is going to try and snipe, he will try and take quick taps, he will bring tempo, he will look to run, to draw in lazy defenders and then play outside them, but it wouldn’t have been the defence side of it.
“I have been really impressed since I came in. Danny is a really, really good athlete which is why he is still so effective even as he gets into his (mid) 30s, he is a really good athlete and he is quite a physical player as well. The way we have been playing, the way that we have been defending, there is opposition that will make some breaches against us and it’s the ability to scramble, to get high up the field and then scramble and Danny does that really, really well for us.”
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