WORLD Cup winner Matt Dawson has called on England boss Stuart Lancaster to forgive and forget this summer and hand the Aviva Premiership’s form scrum-half Danny Care the No.9 jersey in South Africa.
Care has never been far from the headlines this season. After missing the 2011 World Cup through injury, the Harlequins player was arrested four times in three months for various alcohol-fuelled misdemeanours.
He was charged with drink-driving after Christmas, prompting Lancaster to omit Care from his Six Nations plans.
However, after a string of fine performances in the back end of the Aviva Premiership season, culminating in his star showing during the weekend’s win over Leicester at Twickenham, Lancaster has finally forgiven Care.
The Harlequins man, who has been working with another World Cup-winning scrum-half, Kyran Bracken, in the second-half of the season, has been included in the England squad for the tour of South Africa – and Dawson is convinced Care is the man who should be starting this summer.
“Danny is the form scrum-half at the moment,” said Dawson, who was at Twickenham working with the Aviva Premiership Rugby Schools Programme, designed to increase participation in the sport and unearth young England stars of the future “He’s a quality player; he has a good understanding of the game. He organises well and, when you put all those characteristics together, the opposition have to look out for you.
“The focus is on him, which creates space for the fly-half and the other guys in the backline. He’s a handful and teams need to be wary. “His skills are superb. He’s coming back to form and would possibly be the best No.9, so it gives Stuart Lancaster a hell of a decision to make.
“If you need inventiveness and your pack is going well, you want a threat. That’s why Danny Care is your man.”
Just as at the 2003 World Cup, where Sir Clive Woodward had the luxury of selecting his No.9 from Andy Gomarsall, Dawson or Bracken, Lancaster has an avalanche of quality to choose from in South Africa.
As well as Care, Lancaster also has Leicester’s Ben Youngs and Northampton’s Lee Dickson in his travelling party for South Africa.
Youngs was first choice during Martin Johnson’s tenure, while Dickson finished the Six Nations as England’s preferred scrum-half.
Dawson admits Lancaster is blessed with options and admits all three would be a worthy starter in South Africa.
“You can only see the three of them going through to the World Cup if they stay healthy,” said Dawson.
“It has helped Ben Youngs that Leicester have come into a bit of form and he’s got into the rhythm of playing and getting back to the basics well, while Lee Dickson is the current incumbent.
“Any country in the world would love to have three scrum-halves of that quality so it’s a great position for Stuart Lancaster, less so for the players.”
Aviva Premiership Rugby Schools Programme is designed to increase participation in the sport and unearth young England stars of the future. Find out more at avivapremiershiprugby.com