- Care explains healthy competition among squad
- “The aim is to win it and we really believe we can”
There are few members of Stuart Lancaster’s 50-man training group better placed than Danny Care to articulate both the allure of playing in a Rugby World Cup and the constructive competition for places that characterises this England squad.
The 28 year-old scrum half was in excellent form four years ago, but saw his hopes of heading to New Zealand dashed by an unfortunate toe injury.
Between successful spells in which he has been the incumbent, Care has since seen the likes of Leicester Tiger Ben Youngs, Lee Dickson of Northampton Saints and Saracens number nine Richard Wigglesworth win caps.
Each member of that trio is part of preparations at Pennyhill Park alongside the Harlequin. Even so, he believes that such “friendly rivalry” can help drive standards among England’s half-backs.
And, though Care is under no illusions as to how difficult these upcoming months will be, he knows the scale of the prize that lies at the end of an arduous schedule.
“It’s a bit different, this pre-season,” he said. “It feels a bit special and there’s a massive excitement about everything. We’re really looking forward to the next few weeks and going to Denver.
“It’s going to be pretty tough and we’re going to be worked really hard but hopefully that means we’ll be really fit by the end of it and we can hit the games firing.
“I don’t mind working hard to a good cause. It’s the most amazing opportunity that we’ve got and we’ll leave no stone unturned to get in the best shape we can to give it a good crack.
“The aim isn’t just to be there, it’s to go and win it and we really believe we can. Once we get there, we’ll have the Twickenham factor behind us and I hope that’ll drive us on to victory.”
Care felt the full euphoria of the Twickenham crowd back in November when he ran out ahead of the side on the occasion of his 50th Test appearance.
Unfortunately, a 31-28 defeat to South Africa resulted. Youngs was entrusted to start the next QBE International against Samoa, with Wigglesworth on the bench.
Care was omitted from England’s match-day 23 for the final game of 2014 – a thrilling 26-17 win over Australia – and could not break back into Stuart Lancaster’s outfit during the ensuing RBS 6 Nations either.
Though refusing to deny his stinging disappointment, he underlined his ambitions for this career-defining period.
“There’s no worse feeling than not being picked for your country, especially when you have played a week before. Getting to 50 [caps] was an amazing achievement but then not to be in the squad the week after was tough to take.
“But these things happen. There are some incredible players in this country at the moment and a lot of people playing really well.
“I know the competition is so high so hopefully I get a chance to show what I can do and take that forward into the World Cup.
“It’s a friendly rivalry. We all got on but we’ll push each other in training and make it hard, but it’s all in good spirits. Whoever is selected, we’ll be the first over to them to shake their hands and say well done.
“That’s the nature of the group. There’s a great chemistry and a great bond between the lads. You’re disappointed not to be picked but you respect the decisions and you’re happy for your mates.”