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O'Shea's middle-of-the-night police station calls about Danny Care

By Liam Heagney
Conor O'Shea with Danny Care in 2011 (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Veteran scrum-half Danny Care had recalled the middle-of-the-night police station calls that Conor O’Shea received about him during the time they worked together at Harlequins a decade ago. It was March 2010 when O’Shea, the current RFU director of performance, first went to work at The Stoop as their director of rugby, going on to spend six years at the club before taking up the offer to coach Italy.

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Harlequins’ greatest moment in the O’Shea era was the club winning its first Premiership title in 2012, an achievement that has now been recalled on Rugby Stories, the BT podcast series on the top-flight rugby clubs in England. Quins’ high tempo but high-risk approach went against the style of play in the Premiership at the time but it left them crowned champions just 26 months after O’Shea had taken control.

The influence the Irishman wielded has been hugely praised by Care, the Harlequins half-back from Leeds who got himself into a few scrapes over the years and was looked after by O’Shea. “Conor for me was almost like a second dad, a second father figure,” he explained.

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“I was a long way from home. I’m a family man, I missed my mum and dad a lot when I moved down to London and Conor would be there for you wherever you wanted him, whenever you needed him, middle of the night phone calls. He probably got a couple from a couple of police stations with me.

“He would tell you when you were in the wrong, and that was me quite a lot, but he would never blame you. He would always help. That would be the big thing – he would help you. Any game we played we could be awful and he would say, ‘That’s my fault, I didn’t prepare you well enough, I’ll take it on the chin’.”

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The warm Care memories of the O’Shea approach at Harlequins were supported on the podcast by Ugo Monye, another of the title-winning 2012 squad. “What we needed was him. Not because of his tactical mind but we needed someone to come in and take a grip of a young group of men who were talented that needed that sense of liberty and freedom and he delivered that.

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“What I now appreciate is that he saw a talented group of people that just perhaps needed a lot of love and he is one of the most spiritually giving people I have ever come across in rugby and he allowed us to be ourselves. Who were we? We were young, we were silly, slightly naive, we were very much London and we loved that part of ourselves – but we needed someone to embrace it and he did.

“He was just tremendous. He allowed us to just go out and be the very thing that we were perhaps designed to be and he certainly brought the very best out of us. There are a lot of good coaches within rugby but the greatest quality a coach can have is allowing a team to be itself and he did that for us.”

About winning the title, O’Shea said: “They worked hard, they played hard, they enjoyed each other and they played with a smile on their face, that was pretty special.” Care agreed. “There was the whole excitement of the whole year, how hard it is to win a Premiership, all the tough times we had, all the tough things we had gone through as a group.

“That moment you can’t really put it into words what it meant… But being with all the lads, spraying the champagne, Nick Easter with a cigar in his mouth that he had tucked into his sock for the second half which is just incredible, it was just an unbelievable feeling.”

  • For the full Harlequins episode, check out BT Sport’s podcast series, Rugby Stories, part of the BT Sport Pods lineup of podcasts. Every Monday, Rugby Stories, presented by Craig Doyle, will spotlight and celebrate English club rugby history. Btsport.com/pods
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