ENGLAND coach Stuart Lancaster has revealed he could no longer ignore the merits of Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care and Wasps flanker James Haskell after selecting the pair to start tomorrow’s Test against South Africa.
As has become a customary characteristic of Lancaster’s reign, the adventurous coach has selected full-back Alex Goode and No8 Thomas Waldrom for debuts in Port Elizabeth and recalled Care, Haskell, Tom Palmer and Alex Corbisiero in a continued attempt to experiment and avoid a third
Test defeat from three against the Springboks.
Care’s start is his first for England under Lancaster but, with first choice scrum-half Ben Youngs ruled out for between two and three months following shoulder surgery, he now has the chance to prove he can be Lancaster’s long-term No9.
“He had a broad grin on his face when I told him, said Lancaster. “He is a competitive player and he knows he is in a competitive position with Ben Youngs and Lee Dickson both playing well in the Six Nations.
“I know he was desperately disappointed not to make the first Test or be on the bench, but I said to him he had to work hard and earn the right to get into the team. I feel he has done that.”
England’s difficulties in South Africa have often surrounded the physicality provided by the Springboks’ aggressive forwards but, with Haskell returning alongside Waldrom, Lancaster insisted he feels the flanker possesses the necessary tools to make a significant impact and inspire England to their first Test win of the tour.
“I hadn’t coached him before but he has been very positive, upbeat,” said Lancaster. “He is an extrovert character but in a good way. He brings a lot of energy to the team.
“But energy is one thing and physicality is another and we are looking for him to bring that physicality to our back row as a defender and a ball-carrier.”
Care, meanwhile, has admitted that Lancaster’s decision to omit him from his early England squads over disciplinary issues was the inspiration behind his strong recent form and eventual recall to the international scene.
“Missing the Six Nations was a hard blow to take but, looking back, it made me refocus my life and my career a bit,” said Care. “It was probably a good thing to realise what I was missing.
“I didn’t realise at the time how bad it was [but] I will look back and in a way be glad of what happened. It refocused me and made me realise what it is to be a professional rugby player and what an honour it is to represent your country. I took that for granted and that is certainly something I will never do again.”
15 Alex Goode
14 Chris Ashton
13 Jonathan Joseph
12 Manu Tuilagi
11 Ben Foden
10 Toby Flood
9 Danny Care
1 Alex Corbisiero
2 Dylan Hartley (capt)
3 Dan Cole
4 Tom Palmer
5 Geoff Parling
6 Tom Johnson
7 James Haskell
8 Thomas Waldrom