Premiership glory is Care's light at the end of the tunnel
England scrum half Danny Care will step out of the dark and into the light should Harlequins win the Premiership title on Saturday.
The 25-year-old is expected to start tomorrow’s clash with Leicester Tigers at Twickenham after a torrid past 12 months saw him miss the 2011 World Cup with a toe injury, sparking a well-documented fall from grace.
Care was fined for drunken and disorderly behaviour outside Weybridge’s Noir Bar in December, before picking up a 16-month driving ban for drink-driving in the early hours of New Year’s Day and being arrested again for drunken disorder in Leeds in March.
His off-field problems saw him thrown out of England head coach Stuart Lancaster’s elite player squad and facing up to life on the international scrapheap.
But a return to form – and a squeaky clean lifestyle – has helped Quins finish top of the Premiership table and secure Care a place on the plane for England’s summer tour to South Africa.
And the Yorkshireman has admitted lifting the Premiership crown would complete his rehabilitation.
“I probably lost sight of what it is to be a professional rugby player,” he said.
“I’m very fortunate to be in this position and I took my eye off the ball.
“The injury before the World Cup hit me harder than I anticipated. The hurt of not going was hard to take and a few things in my personal life took over.
“I’ve knuckled down over the past few months and I’m loving playing again. There was a time when I wasn’t really enjoying it.
“Missing the Six Nations was heart-breaking, but it was my own doing.
“I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons and to be thrown out of an England squad is one of the worst things that can happen to a rugby player “I chose to let my rugby do the talking and I probably owe a lot of people a big performance on Saturday.
“It took me until the third incident to realise I’m a professional rugby player and probably a role model to a few people.
“The boys have been brilliant. I have had the best support you could ask for. Chris [Robshaw] has put an arm round me, Conor [O’Shea] has too.
“They’ve had a quiet word, as have my mum and dad. A mum’s telling off is the worst you can get.
“I had to sort my life out. I took a long hard look in the mirror and I’ve done that.
“It has been a tough few months, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and, hopefully, winning the Premiership title will be that light.”
Quins go into tomorrow’s clash as the underdogs with eight-time finalists Leicester Tigers going into the game on the back of an 11-match winning steak – including a 43-33 triumph over director of rugby Conor O’Shea’s men.
But the Stoop’s star number nine insisted the side’s narrow 25-23 semi-final triumph over Northampton Saints means Quins cannot be written off.
“When we topped the table at game three, people said we’d struggle when players came back from the World Cup and we have used that as motivation,” he added.
“After the Leicester defeat, we have shown we can come back from something like that against Saints and it has given us that belief again.
“We’re just excited about the final now. It is fresh and raw for us because we’ve never been there before. It is a step up from everything we have played as a club before.
“It would be a dream come true to be the best team in the Premiership. Anything less than that is not good enough.
“This season will have been a waste if we don’t win now.
“The players have worked so hard, the management have worked so hard.
“The club have had some ups and downs in the past few years and a win would be reward for all the supporters who have stuck by us.”