EXCLUSIVE: Time to take Care! England outcast Danny set for recall ahead of South Africa tour
22:01 GMT, 25 April 2012
Danny Care is on course to emerge from the doghouse and make a return to the England squad for the summer tour of South Africa, following a positive meeting with coach Stuart Lancaster.
The 25-year-old Harlequins scrum-half was banished from the squad in January, following two alcohol-related incidents in quick succession — the second leading to a court appearance and driving ban. Since then, Care has been arrested and cautioned in Leeds for being drunk and disorderly and arrested over an alleged sexual assault, which he vehemently denies, before being bailed pending further police investigations.
Despite this build-up of off-field controversies for the Yorkshireman — who missed the World Cup through injury — he is on the verge of being welcomed back into the England ranks, having been overlooked throughout the Six Nations.
Half back in the squad: Care could go to South Africa
Sportsmail has learned that Care had a meeting with Lancaster last week and received indications that his superb form and improved behaviour have forced him into contention for a Test recall.
DUTY OF CARE
Born: Leeds, Jan 2, 1987
England debut: May 2008 v Barbarians, Twickenham.
First England cap: June 2008 v New Zealand, Auckland.
England appearances: 32.
Tries scored: 3.
Having been appointed initially as interim head coach of the national team, Lancaster tried to tackle the problem of indiscipline which blighted the World Cup campaign under Martin Johnson.
He illustrated his commitment to a clean-up operation soon after being given the job by taking firm action against Care, who he knows well and admires after coaching him at Leeds.
Even when the player’s problems continued, Lancaster expressed disappointment but also a firm belief Care was by no means an innate trouble-maker with an alcohol problem. He sought to support Harlequins in their attempts to help Care change his ways.
The club have been encouraged by his response, particularly in the last month, and his over-riding focus on his game has been reflected in outstanding form.
In top form: Care has performed well for Harlequins this season
It appears he has earned another England chance and is set to gain a place in the enlarged squad of 40 for the tour of South Africa in June, featuring three Tests and two midweek games. Lancaster will announce his provisional selection on May 10.
Providing he avoids any further disciplinary lapses or injuries, Care should have a chance of pushing for a Test return.
He has 32 caps, with his most recent appearance coming in Cardiff last August, before a broken toe forced him out of the World Cup.
In his absence, Lee Dickson of Northampton emerged as the prime challenger to Ben Youngs for the No 9 shirt. However, Care’s pace and adventurous streak would be suited to the hard grounds in South Africa.
In the shirt: Lee Dickson played as scrum half during the Six Nations
Lancaster is preparing to supplement the senior squad from the Six Nations with a batch of young players for his first, daunting southern hemisphere expedition.
Among those in contention to make the trip is rookie Leicester fly-half and IRB World Young Player of the Year George Ford. Yet his director of rugby at the Tigers, Richard Cockerill, suggested an early promotion to the senior England ranks would not be in Ford’s interests.
‘George clearly has a lot of talent but he still needs to develop physically and at some stage he needs to have a pre-season to do that,’ he said.
Too soon George Ford has been tipped to be in the England squad
‘If England take him on tour it is only good experience if he comes out of it in a positive fashion. If lots of big people run at him, like has happened to other young players, it might have a detrimental effect but that is up to Stuart Lancaster.’
Cockerill also raised the possibility of the other Youngs brother at Leicester, hooker Tom, being called up by England, adding: ‘If you look at the pecking order for hookers — there’s (Dylan) Hartley and (Lee) Mears, (Rob) Webber is injured, (Chris) Brooker is injured, there’s Jamie George and then Tom Youngs. Tom may well come into the top four because he is available.’
Wales captain Sam Warburton must wait to see if he can lead the Grand Slam winners to Australia in June. The Cardiff flanker had hoped to find out this week whether he would need surgery on his damaged shoulder, but he has been told it will be another month before he can receive a clear prognosis.
Nomination: Owen Farrell is up for the Discovery of the season award
‘The specialist told me I have to go back for a final consultation in a month’s time,’ said Warburton. ‘That is when I’ll know one way or the other. It is very frustrating because I have not been able to let the coaches know one way or the other. There have been big improvements but it’s difficult to tell with a nerve problem. I will just have to wait and hope.’
England and Saracens fly-half-cum-centre Owen Farrell has been included on the Premiership Young Player — or ‘Discovery’ — of the Year award shortlist, along with Luke Wallace (Harlequins), Christian Wade (Wasps), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Matt Kvesic (Worcester) and Jonathan Joseph (London Irish). The winner will be announced on May 8.