‘We’ve had some amazing Euro wins but this would top the lot’: Quins ace Care relishing Stormers tie

Sitting on the rooftop of a hotel overlooking Table Mountain, the sun glistening on the ocean below, Danny Care could be a million miles away from the troubled waters of English rugby.

He points out the vineyards enjoyed by some of the players at the start of the week. Over the top of the hillside, he describes the golf course where he teamed up with Joe Marler to beat Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt. ‘We emptied their pockets!’ he says. ‘When Marler connects with the ball, it flies!’

As he sips on a soft drink, reflecting on his teenage years playing for Leeds’ second team at Chandos Park, he can be forgiven for seeing the rugby world through rose-tinted glasses.

‘For someone like me, 36, coming to the end, I’d never have thought I’d go to South Africa on a tour again. It sounds simple but just to feel the sun makes you feel a bit happier. I’ve loved it.’

Turning towards Green Point to pick out the venue for Saturday’s Champions Cup game against the Stormers, he adds: ‘It’s not a bad stadium, is it?’ It is the ground that hosted the 2021 Lions series. Close to 50,000 tickets have been sold. The week-long trip has offered welcome respite from the Premiership.

Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care is in Cape Town for Saturday’s Champions Cup clash

‘It’s hard because our fans can’t come and watch it but it’s unique to come out here and try to get to a European Cup quarter-final.

‘We’re playing pretty much a full Springbok team. If you don’t play well against this lot, you’re gonna get battered. You miss not playing for England. You miss playing against the best in tough environments. It’s going to be rocking. We’ve had amazing European away days with this club. We’re not in Europe here but this would probably top the lot if we can get a victory.’

Conversation turns to matters back home. This week, London Irish have been in the news, as US investors stepped in to ease payroll fears ahead of a takeover. England wing Anthony Watson is due in Castres this weekend to explore a move to France and Care, one of the game’s most experienced figures, believes it is time for change.

‘You hear stories about other clubs and it is scary,’ he says. ‘Rugby needs a reset, to take a look at what’s going on. I feel fortunate to be with a club that hopefully isn’t in too much trouble.

‘The game needs to find a way of making more money. England players need to be playing for their clubs, which helps with TV rights, the biggest source of income in rugby. If Marcus Smith is only playing eight or nine games a year for his club, I can’t see how that’s beneficial to anyone. You can’t have big Premiership games during the Six Nations.

‘Anthony Watson can’t get a club in England because he’s not available half the time. It’s not his fault he’s a brilliant player and he’s going to get picked for England. To hear he’s without a club, you think how is that a thing? Surely there’s something in the middle where RFU funding can help out the top 25 English players in the country.

‘I was listening to Eddie Hearn on James Haskell’s podcast. He said he couldn’t name more than six rugby players. So how do you market these players and make them household names? Having it on free-to-air helps, so could it be done more? It’s expensive to have all those subscriptions. People get paid a lot of money to make big decisions, and need to make better ones.’

After almost two decades at the top of his game, Care is comfortable speaking his mind. He clarifies his own position in Steve Borthwick’s England plans, revealing there have been no conversations since the new coach took over. ‘That tells me what I need to know,’ he says.

And he discusses the battle for England’s No 10 jersey between Owen Farrell and his team-mate, Smith. ‘Everyone clamours for change. When I played at No 9, people would say, “Why isn’t Lee Dickson playing?”, “It should be Ben Youngs”, or, “Bring Paul Hodgson back”.

‘It will take time. He’s got Owen there, one of the best to play for England, and it’s not an easy thing to suddenly usurp him. It might take a few years until it’s fully his shirt but it will be.

The week-long trip has offered a welcome respite from the Premiership troubles

The week-long trip has offered a welcome respite from the Premiership troubles

Care says England players such as teammate Marcus Smith need to play more for their clubs

Care says England players such as teammate Marcus Smith need to play more for their clubs

‘Marcus doesn’t want to be sitting on the bench, but if he has to do that he will because he’s a team player. He’s a winner. He’s 24 and played 140-odd games for Quins, 21 caps, hopefully he gets 100. He could play for 10, 15 more years. He wants to be one of the best and he will be.’

While Care does not expect to play for England again, his days with Quins are far from over. He has been approached by I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here but is not ready to give up these days yet. How about Strictly Come Dancing? ‘My wife would veto that quickly. The curse! I’m a Celebrity… would be fun.

‘Anyone I know who has done it has said it’s not just as though they feed you snacks off camera; there is no food. James Haskell and Mike Tindall really struggled with the food. I’d come back malnourished! Imagine me coming back trying to tackle one of these South Africans after not eating for four weeks!

‘I always said I’d keep going until I feel I can’t do it any more, or am letting the team down, or I don’t enjoy it. I haven’t reached any of them yet.’

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