Yesterday Quins scrum half Danny was added to the bench for today’s England international against Argentina, because of a Ben Youngs injury niggle. Lee Dickson of Northampton Saints is unaffected as the starting 9.
You might say I’m biased but Danny is the top scrum half in England.
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers) had a flying start to his international career, but then had a bad knee injury from which he took time to recover and find his form. These days, still only 24, he tends to blow hot and cold.
Youngs’ advantage over Care, in terms of the selectors’ perception, is his steadiness. He’s not going to make many mistakes and will execute the tactics to the letter.
Care, meanwhile, has always supplied the X-factor. He can create openings out of nothing, is lightning quick over the first fifteen yards and invariably adds pace to the game. But he can also make mistakes.
In one England home game, he came on as a substitute and almost immediately did something stupid which merited a yellow card. In another, he managed a dreadful (involuntary) up-and-under in his own half, which indirectly resulted in a match-winning try for the opposition. Occasionally, his box-kicks get charged down. In the past he has also had problems with drink off the field which, on separate occasions, has resulted in him being dropped by England and Harlequins disciplining him.
Under Stuart Lancaster, therefore, England have tended to opt for the reliable Youngs as number one 9 and used Danny as an impact sub. Given their temperaments, you can follow the logic. However, I’d choose Danny over Youngs every time, if I ever needed one of them to play for my life.
Dickson has been playing well in the Premiership, hence his pick to start in the autumn internationals. However, I don’t rate him. Frankly – and this is bias – I maintain the best Dickson is his older brother Karl, who plays number two scrum half behind Danny Care at Quins.
The LV= Cup commences this weekend – it’s a third level tournament, behind the Heineken and Amlin Cups, played by English and Welsh teams. Most Premiership teams take it semi-seriously, using it primarily as a means of giving younger players exposure to first team pressures and crowds.
Today Quins, the defending champions, travel to Sandy Park to play Exeter Chiefs. I shall be watching the return from injury of Charlie Matthews as a starting lock.
He’s been on my personal radar ever since I first saw him playing in the Quins ‘A’ team aged seventeen, five years ago.
He played two full seasons in the England Under-20 squad and is famous for being the player that Quins opted to keep instead of Joe Launchbury, when the issue was having to let one of them go. Launchbury, of course, has since become an England regular and Matthews has had a run of unfortunate injures which have hampered his development.
Exeter is a well-run club, known for its committed and noisy supporters. Nobody ever relishes the prospect of playing at Sandy Park.
Which is why I do not have a clue as to which team will prevail this afternoon!