Easter: Care has X Factor
Danny Care has the potential to become the 'stardust player' that England need to challenge for World Cup glory next year, according to his Harlequins team-mate Nick Easter.
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The 27-year-old half-back has enjoyed a superb season so far and will be desperate to impress head coach Stuart Lancaster during the forthcoming Six Nations campaign as he stakes a claim for a regular starting spot in the XV.
In a squad ravaged by injuries, Care's return to training from an ankle injury sustained in Harlequins' Heineken Cup defeat to Clermont Auvergne earlier this month gives England a timely boost ahead of their opening match against France in Paris on February 1 and should be fit for selection.
But while Easter hopes Care can showcase his customary game-changing skill and attacking flair, the former England captain has also underlined the importance for him to get the basics right as well.
The 35-year-old told sportinglife.com: "Danny has been very unlucky in the last year and a bit because he's been the best scum half in England and just hasn't been picked. Any opportunity he gets in the Six Nations he's really got to realise that's the one and seize the moment.
"He's one of those individual stardust players with the X Factor - but the prerequisite to performing well is to do the basics right.
"So although it might be frustrating and a bit boring, you have to do those things right first and foremost. You look at him to make the big play but sometimes that's not what's required. He's just got to keep going and hopefully he'll get a few chances in the Six Nations to prove what everyone really knows and become the starting scum half.
"But it is one guy's opinion ultimately - you've got to persuade him."
Care was of course on the losing side in his most recent outing for Harlequins as their hopes of reaching the Heineken Cup quarter-finals were ended, but the scrum half's magical back-of-the-hand pass to a try-scoring Matt Hopper was still a major talking point.
And it's moments like that which Easter feels could prove the difference when England face their toughest tests.
"That was a genuine moment of magic - the kind which won New Zealand the rugby league World Cup semi-final against England - and you need that spark," said Easter.
"You can't just have players who go through the system and plod along not making errors because often they won't offer anything threatening to the opposition."
England will once again be captained by Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw, who Easter insists is fully deserving of the honour.
He said: "Robbo has grown more than anyone the past few years. He got handed the captaincy after just one game two years beforehand and then covered himself in glory.
"There’s been times when people doubted him but he’s never doubted himself which I think is important and he’s just got on with it.
"You never see him have a bad game, he's a tremendous competitor and is always keen to learn. He never thinks he is number one or rests on his laurels and always wanting to improve."
Having sealed the consolation prize of an Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final place with a victory over Scarlets on Sunday, Harlequins now turn their attention to the LV= Cup this weekend before resuming their Aviva Premiership campaign on February 9.
Quins currently lie fourth in the table but with Saracens and Northampton well clear in first and second, they face a real fight with Bath, Leicester and Wasps for the two remaining places in the end of season play-offs.
Having won the Grand Final in 2012 and lost in the semi-finals last year, the club are hoping for a third successive top-four spot and Easter expects a nail-biting second half of the season.
"I think it will go down to the wire," he said. "I think fourth spot is going to be so tight between Leicester, Bath and ourselves. We've got Bath in our last home game of the regular season so it could well come down to that as a decider to make the play-offs.
"Leicester are notorious for peaking at the right time so you’ve got to expect a run from them. The Six Nations period is going to be crucial for us to stay right in the mix rather than leave it too late in the season to scrape in."
Despite Sarries and Saints surging clear at the top, Easter added: "I wouldn’t be surprised if one of Bath, Leicester or ourselves ended up as champions to be honest.
"At the moment Saracens and Northampton are doing really well but we're only halfway through and you've got to make sure you’re hitting your stride in the final two months of the season really.
"That's when you need to be playing well and be physically and mentally strong.
"Last season we were top of the league in February but faded off and lost around half our games from March onwards, which isn’t obviously championship-winning form. The real form guide is the last two months although the leading two are trailblazing their way to the guaranteed home semi-finals which does give you a massive advantage."
- Nick Easter is represented by ROAR Sport @ROARSPORT1
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