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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'd like to see some stats on how effective box kick(er)s are as it seems to me that more than half dont seem to have the desired effect as they either go out to touch too short, stay in and not get followed up or go too long and are returned with interest...
I think the box kicks have to be judged against specific points -
1) if it isn't on why not go to the FH or FB to put out?
2) is the chase good, often it isn't
3) Is the kick good (high, long or both)
DC against Leicester is a good case in point, his kicks were not brilliant, yet, we persisted and failed to get out of our 22, why didn't we pass it Brown or Evans to put more length, distance on the clearance?
Danny's form has been very good recently but as said above, box kicks have been awful. I also agree that he is far from the only one who can't box kick.
I have a pet theory about modern players coming through academies not being able to master their position specific skills. I reckon that the players who have come up from the lower leagues tend to be able to do the basics of their chosen position much better than those who have been professional since school and who have only ever experienced academy rugby.
e.g. Easter is one of the best at controlling the ball at the base of the scrum, then picking up and charging. Morgan also did well during 6N. A lot of other premiership 8s who may have been developed as generic back row players, e.g. haskell, can't do this
Same with dickson vs care. Karl maybe doesn't offer the running, sniping threat or all round footballing skills but is arguably a better passer and box-kicker.
I reckon this is because when players come through lower league clubs they tend to learn the basics rather than concentrating massively on strength and conditioning, and aspects of the play confined to the professional game.
This is only a very vague theory and I've not taken the time to think of too many other examples, but I reckon there is at least some merit in it.
Been impressed with Danny in recent weeks - seems faster to the breakdown and quicker at getting the pass away than he was, and that was a large part I think of the speed of our game at the weekend. The box kicks - the three that were charged down were right in front of me - aside. After the first two, ball should have gone to Nev I think or a longer ruck formed. Leicester were very quickly onto him - I think it was Mafi each time too, and he had a blinder.
I think Care was and is getting slightly unfair grief regarding his box kicks. As far as I could see, he was woefully under protected on the short side. Marfo had a clear run as him with nobody there to protect DC when kicking.
There was no guard in any of the chargedowns. Or for Mafi's try. Surely these are basics? With the try it can't really be legislated for, just poor work from the forwards, but surely Danny could see he was likely to be charged down? Half the north stand were telling him before it happened!
It was very strange that, when he stopped box-kicking, the ball still didn't get cleared and we tried to play from our 22. Nev can't have been fully fit, what with the penalty kicks to touch (or not) by Brown early in the game.
I must say, over the past few seasons we have almost never been charged down, but it is creeping in at the moment. I believe I even saw Nev charged down a few games ago.
I love watching Danny play, but it's now become obvious when he's going to box kick and invariably they don't work. I disagree with JB1 - I don't think we're being hard on him at all and I wish he would do them less often.
I agree that our kicking game is limited with Evans injured, but shouldn't our backs (or kicking!) coach be working on that for all of the backs? It always strikes me as daft that only our fly half really kicks. Yes, Brown takes clearance kicks and Danny can drop-goal, but we don't have many other options and we should.
claire_m ...but it's now become obvious when he's going to box kick...
He's not quite as obvious as Claasens or those variably lined up behind the Sarries catepillar. However, it is obvious enough to let anyone watching know its time to chase the ball downfield and get into someone's face (not literally, of course)!
I disagree with the box kick issues throughout his career they have been pretty solid and defiantly better than what we all had to sit through the six nations with Ben Youngs. When we played Leicester the other day his box kicks were not up to scratch but that was one black mark against his name. Some people of these forums appear to have very short term memories on occasions....
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