After a match-winning try to celebrate his 35th birthday on Sunday, Danny Care is optimistic that he can agree terms soon with Harlequins to play on for a 17th season with the Premiership champions.
The former England scrum-half remains an influential asset to the London club — as he demonstrated yet again with his decisive strike against Gloucester at Kingsholm — and both parties are keen to finalise a new contract with his deal running out at the end of this campaign.
Care is confident that he can continue to serve Quins with distinction and cope with the relentless demands of his high-intensity occupation.
At 35, former England scrum-half Danny Care remains an influential asset to Harlequins
‘There’s definitely a desire,’ he said when asked about extending his stay at The Stoop where he arrived from Leeds as a promising rookie back in 2006. ‘There are conversations being had, it’s just about the final detail of those conversations.
‘I’ve always said that if I feel like I can still do it and I’m still enjoying it, I want to keep playing. My body feels as good as it’s done for a long time and the club have been good to me in terms of working out what I need to do in the week. I don’t chase any crazy lifts in the gym, I just do the stuff I need to do hopefully to perform at the weekend.
‘If I can still help this team then I’d love to. I hope it will be sorted soon. I think the club want it to happen too. It would be nice to keep going. It’s a great club and I love being here. It would take a lot of other factors to come into play, for me not to play for Harlequins.’
For Care and so many others this is a difficult time to be in contract negotiations. Premiership directors of rugby and head coaches are cutting their budgets to fit into a reduced salary cap.
The 35-year-old scored match-winning try against Gloucester at Kingsholm on Sunday
Belts are being tightened and squads are being trimmed. The transfer market has been busy as club stalwarts are forced to move on — or choose to do so — to protect their income.
There will have to be, according to Care, a realisation among English rugby’s leading players that widespread pay deflation is unavoidable. ‘There has to be a bit of acceptance from the players of the financial situation the clubs are in now,’ he said. ‘Wages can’t just keep going up and up but, as players, of course we all want to get paid as much as we can because it’s a short career and it’s a ridiculously tough sport.
‘The money will keep going up for the international players and I feel for guys who are in the middle, who aren’t playing international rugby. They will probably get squeezed on to smaller contracts.’
Despite the backdrop of cost-cutting, Care does not anticipate an exodus of players overseas, due to the allure of national service. The RFU policy of only allowing home-based players to be picked for England means that those with any sort of Test prospects and aspirations will stay.
Care is keen to finalise a new contract with his deal running out at the end of this campaign
‘If you are around the England mix it would be really hard to be tempted away, to play abroad,’ said Care. ‘The big reason I never even thought about it was because I was desperate to play for England.
‘I think they’ve got a massive chance to win the next World Cup, I really do, so anyone in and around that mix would be very foolish to go away. If they go and win a World Cup in a couple of years’ time and you made a decision to leave, I don’t know if you’d ever forgive yourself.’
At Quins, Care has formed a dynamic, deadly partnership with Marcus Smith, the fly-half prodigy now blazing a trail at international level.
Knowing better than anyone else how his club sidekick operates, the veteran No 9 feels that the England status quo will be preserved for now, with Ben Youngs building on his three- figure cap tally, as Eddie Jones’s preferred scrum-half. But Sale’s Raffi Quirke has announced himself and Care can see he has what it takes as the heir apparent.
Care believes Ben Youngs will continue to be Eddie Jones’s preferred scrum-half this season
‘Youngsy’s form during the autumn and since has been great,’ he said. ‘He has a knack, when people start saying things about him, he plays really well and he’s doing that really well at the moment — for England and for Leicester.
‘A bit of that is probably because of Raffi Quirke coming through. He is a pocket rocket who reminds me of Faf de Klerk. There’s also a bit of Antoine Dupont in him, in the way he backs himself. For a guy who isn’t the biggest, he punches above his weight. I’m a massive fan of Raffi.
‘For Marcus at 10, having Youngsy there is definitely going to help him by taking a bit of the pressure off. If it’s territorial, Youngsy can take over a bit more.
‘Raffi is good. Raffi is coming. I really like what he is all about, but has he done it for long enough yet to overthrow Ben Youngs? I don’t think so. I think Eddie will be clever with him, by dipping him in and out.
‘So I think Ben Youngs will stay around, certainly for the Six Nations, but I’d like to see Raffi and maybe one more in there — whether it is (Alex) Mitchell or (Jack) van Poortvliet — to show what they can do.’
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