Cared-for Care aiming to repay friends in the final
Scrum-half, who can dictate Saturday's Premiership final, admits he lost his way but was helped back on track by Quins team-mates
If Danny Care gives as much to Harlequins at Twickenham on Saturday as his colleagues have given him over the last few troubled weeks and months, the Londoners' chances of securing a first Premiership title will be very good indeed. Back in favour with England after a series of drink-related brushes with the long arm of the law, the form scrum-half in the country feels he now owes something to the people who put their own arms around him and turned him towards the straight and narrow.
"I'm delighted to have been selected in the England squad for South Africa," he said yesterday, referring to the forthcoming Test series with the Springboks. "But the first thing I have to think about is this weekend's final with Leicester, which will be the biggest club game of my life. It's been a tough year, but the Quins players have given me the best support anyone could have had. Chris Robshaw [his captain] put an arm round me; Jordan Turner-Hall and Rory Clegg [his housemates] have kept me amused. I needed my mates to look after me and, at the same time, to sort me out. They've been amazing."
Care was arrested on three occasions either side of Christmas and found himself jettisoned from England's squad for the Six Nations by the new head coach, Stuart Lancaster – one of the men most responsible for propelling him towards Test status in the first place. An allegation of sexual assault, which the player denies, is still under investigation. Yet his performances at club level have been remarkably consistent, and with no developments in the outstanding case anticipated before the middle of summer at the earliest, Lancaster has decided that this is the right time to rehabilitate him.
"My main focus has shifted back to what I do best," Care continued following a bright and breezy training session at the Quins base in Guildford. "I think I lost sight of what I was as a professional rugby player – took my eye off the ball, if you like. Being injured before last year's World Cup and not going to the tournament hit me harder than I thought at the time and there were things in my personal life that took over. A lot was said, some of it not very nice, but I've grown up a lot. Being thrown out of an England squad is the worst thing that can happen to a player."
Nigel Redman, the former Bath and England lock who has been coaching the national Under-20 team, is leaving the Rugby Football Union to succeed Phil Davies as the forwards specialist at Worcester, thereby linking up with his old clubmate Richard Hill, the boss at Sixways.
Across the Irish Sea, the excellent Munster back-row forward Denis Leamy has been forced into premature retirement at 30 by a persistent hip injury. "I've had a great career and I wish it could have gone on a little longer," said Leamy, who won 57 caps for his country.
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