The Harlequins And England Rugby Scrum Half Says You Have To Be Prepared To Fail, To Win

As the Rugby Premiership gears up for another bone-crunching season RISING talks to one of its fleet-footed stars

Danny Care was part of the Harlequins squad who lifted the Aviva Premiership trophy back in 2012 – we spoke to him as his strengthened club gear up their campaign to take on the league once again…

RISING The Rugby Premiership seems to get tougher and more competitive every year – have you set yourself targets to stay ahead of the game this season? DANNY CARE ‘Yes, I think for me it's that I want to keep developing my speed, I've always been quite fast but I want to turn that up a notch really and try and get faster. We've got great SSE coaches here and with England and they seem to think I can get faster so that's going to be a big goal for me this year. I'm not going to change my technique. It's just about trying to be more efficient with my technique. I'm doing a lot of bounding and that sort of stuff to hopefully get more powerful. Another one is my flexibility, something I've been working on the last couple of years – probably something I took for granted a few years ago, but I've noticed a massive difference in putting a focus on that.’

RISING As scrum half you're having to make split second decisions under high pressure... DC ‘Yes, it can be hard sometimes. You're right in the middle of it, you've got a lot of big lads around you, it's hard to see over them most of the time but that's when it's good. You've got the coaches up top who can see a bigger picture. They can help you, send on little bits.’

England coach, Eddie Jones, says to me a lot: “Back your first instinct, it’s normally the right one

RISING Is there a way you can prepare for that match pressure in training? DC ‘Yes, I think you've obviously got to practice to see what works. Eddie Jones, the England coach says to me a lot: “Back your first instinct, it's normally the right one.” So your first decision is normally the right one and I've found that with myself. As soon as you start thinking about it too much, you've talked yourself out of the right decision. The higher up you go at the level, obviously the less time you have to make these decisions. The 'Quins coaches and the England coaches are massive on that; trusting your instinct, backing yourself. That's a big thing for me.’

RISING I guess with that you also have to be ready for the fact your instinct might be wrong? DC ‘That comes with the territory, especially as a scrum half. You touch the ball more than anyone else does on the pitch so you're going to make mistakes – you just hope you can limit the amount of them, and hopefully the risk/reward of trying something and it coming off helps. You don't want to be trying ridiculous stuff the whole time but if you think something's on – definitely at 'Quins and England – you've got the licence to back yourself. Even if it's the wrong decision, your teammates will react and hopefully make it into the right decision.’

RISING You’re in the spotlight, so how do you personally come back from making a mistake? DC ‘It's something we train at 'Quins. We call it the Next Job, so someone makes a mistake, you'll literally say to yourself or people start shouting “Next job,” and you don't have time in rugby, or I'd imagine in a lot of walks of life, to dwell on decisions that you've made. It's in the past, you've got to get on and either fix the problem or work your arse off to try and get the ball back or make the next tackle. As soon as you start thinking about it too much, you go into a bit of a downward spiral. You see the best players in the world in football, rugby, cricket, whatever, they manage to set aside their last decision – if it's a bad one – and move on to the next job straight away.’

Focus on the present – start thinking about things too far ahead and you're going to mess up

RISING What about the big occasions – you’re a pivotal player for England – how do you prepare mentally for key games? DC ‘I try and stay quite chilled before any game. I'd like to think I’ll feel similar before the pre-season game tomorrow than I would be in two weeks’ time, in the first game at Twickenham. It's always ramped up mentally when you're playing a big game but as long as you get your preparation right, you've done your work during the week, then you go into the game confident. If you're mentally ready and prepared then it should feel like any other game. And then you don't worry about three or four minutes later, or the end of the game; you focus on the present. As soon as you start thinking about things too far ahead then you're going to mess up somewhere.’

RISING You have to train throughout the season – is there a session that’s got a rep as the hardest? DC ‘Tuesday afternoon the lads normally dread the most – we normally train twice. We do a back unit session in the morning and you do your team session in the afternoon. That's normally when it's the most physical and you run the furthest, so very short breaks of play in between – there's not much time to recover, similar to a game. It's our proper rehearsal of a game where we can do a bit of physical work, where you've still got three or four days before the game to recover.’

RISING Is there a routine you follow to try to ensure you recover in time? DC ‘Yes, I think massages are good for me, just to get a flush after training. I hate to say it but getting in the ice bath definitely does help. Then for me it's in between sessions having a good stretch and making sure my back and my hips are ready to go.’

RISING For Harlequins, what are the main focuses for the season? DC ‘We got into the top six for the first time in a few seasons [in 2016-17] but we'd love to be in the knock-out stages to win the league. The ultimate dream is to be champions of England again, which we know is incredibly hard and we know there's probably nine or 10 teams in the league that'll be saying the same thing in pre-season. It's obviously going to be a lot of hard work but we'll try and take each game as it comes, win as many as we can and see where we’re at.’

RISING What’s different this season in terms of the squad's makeup? DC ‘The competition for places in training already has been amazing. We've never had this many players at the club. There's four or five in every position who want to play and that can only be healthy for the club. As long as the lads stay fit and you can keep that going all season then I'm sure the coaches will rest a few players every now and then, and have trust in the whole squad to do a job because it's a full squad effort.’

The beauty of the premiership is – especially this year – anyone can beat anyone on the day

RISING What’s it like having so much competition for places? DC ‘You want to be tested and there's some great scrum halves in the club at the moment – there's five scrum halves so obviously five doesn't fit into two. There's two lads who will get to start on bench every week and there's some great players coming through; Dave Lewis who signed from Exeter this season who's a great scrum half and obviously Charlie Mulchrone who's been here for a couple of seasons now. I've been that young guy before, trying to get a chance. So for me it's about helping each other to get better, but also obviously I want to play well to deserve to play.’

RISING Can we expect a close-fought battle throughout the league this season? DC ‘The beauty of the premiership is, especially this year, anyone can beat anyone on the day. The team who obviously finishes the strongest will get the trophy, but you can't afford to slip up at the start. You need to be in the hunt the whole time. A few games last year it slipped away from us – you look back at them and you think if only we'd have won a couple more, or got a couple more bonus points here and there. We may have got into that top four and then when you're in the top four you've got to win two games and you're the champion. We need to be in there first to have a go.’

WHAT NEXT? Deciphering the rules of Rugby Union can be challenging for the armchair pundit so get ahead of the game with Harlequin’s guide to the rulebook changes for the 2017/18 season.

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