ICON Legends – Danny Care – England and Harlequins star

ICON Legends Tuesday April 23, 2024 By: Harry Howes

As the England rugby team enters a new era under Steve Borthwick, there’s one man that won’t be part of the revolution. Danny Care announced he was retiring from international rugby following the Six Nations last month, bringing an end to his 16-year stint representing his nation.

Care became just the sixth player in history to reach 100 England appearances earlier this year, with his 101st coming in his final appearance as his side suffered late heartbreak against France.

As Care hangs up his boots and reflects on a whirlwind career, we’ve taken a look at his key moments as he becomes the latest inductee in our ICON Legends hall of fame.

An England centurion

Only Ben Youngs, Jason Leonard, Dan Cole, Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes have represented England more times than Care. The 37-year-old scored 84 points for his country, including 15 tries.

The last of those tries proved crucial, coming in the narrow win over Samoa at the World Cup last year, where England ultimately finished third. After helping England to silver in the rugby sevens at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Care made his international debut two years later.

His first appearance came in a defeat to New Zealand, before he scored his maiden try in his first start the following game. Care continued to be selected for England camps and while he took time to establish himself as a starter, he was a crucial part of the squad as England won the Six Nations in 2011.

Three years later, Care was nominated for Six Nations Player of the Year and then in 2016, he helped England claim the Grand Slam for the first time in 13 years. The championship was sewn up with a win over France in the final game, with Care scoring an iconic try in the first half.

With the game level at 3-3, Care picked up the ball 45 metres out before powering through the French backline and diving over the line. The match in Paris eventually finished 31-21 and saw Care claim his second Six Nations medal.

England defended their crown the following year with Care part of the squad and he was also pivotal as they came second on three other occasions. Despite his strong performances for the national team, Care was dropped by Eddie Jones before the 2019 World Cup.

He spent three years in the wilderness before eventually earning a recall in 2022 and he enjoyed one final tournament in France last year.

Harlequins hero

Domestically, Care started out at hometown club Leeds Tykes before joining Harlequins in 2006, where he has played ever since. The stalwart has made 370 appearances for the London outfit, scoring almost 600 points in the process.

Despite his success on the rugby pitch, things could have turned out so differently for Care. A talented sportsman, he was snapped up to the Sheffield Wednesday academy as a youngster. But after being released at the age of 15, Care turned his back on football in favour of pursuing a career in rugby.

He made his Guinness Premiership debut in 2005 before joining Quins a year later – and he hasn’t looked back. As well as his Six Nations medal collection, Care has tasted success at club level too.

He was a key cog as Harlequins won Premiership Rugby titles in both 2012 and 2021, while they also went all the way in the EPCR Challenge Cup in 2011. That cup final saw them come up against Stade Francais in Cardiff and the French side were leading 18-12 with just five minutes left on the clock.

But always one to step up for his teammates, Care chipped an expert ball through to Gonzalo Camacho, who gratefully scored and saw his try converted to claim the trophy. The following year, Care was pivotal again as they beat Leicester to the title.

While his England honours quenched the thirst in the intervening years, Care wouldn’t taste domestic success again until 2021. But it was worth the wait as Harlequins came back from 28-0 down against Bristol Bears to win the semi-final, before pipping Exeter Chiefs to claim the title.

Although Care would have dreamt of retiring with a World Cup win to his name, he can have no regrets over his success on the field. His reliability and professionalism were key components in his longevity in the England setup.

Alongside several other seasoned professionals, Care’s experience provided the glue for the England side, acting as the foil for the up and coming youngsters that have entered the fold of late.

As the England team continues to grow, any success they have in the near future will obviously see the plaudits aimed at those that have got the job done. Yet those players will undoubtedly be the first to admit that the leadership of Care and his fellow older heads would have paved the way for their success.

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