Danny Care today made it a Harlequins double as he was named Gallagher Premiership Rugby Player of the Month for March 2021, one month after the accolade was bestowed upon team-mate Marcus Smith.
Care has hit some of the best form of his life, aged 34, as Harlequins have climbed into the Gallagher Premiership semi-final picture, earning accolades from BT Sport pundit and Gallagher ambassador Ugo Monye.
“Danny is one of my best mates and godfather to my daughter, but more seriously, he’s probably in the best form I’ve seen him in for a long time,” says Monye.
“I’m talking about his all-round game: his controlling game as a nine, the tempo he brings, his running threat and also his attacking, kicking threat. I think he’s been one of the big reasons why Harlequins have seen this turnaround in fortunes over the last couple of months and it’s good to see that being recognised on an individual level.”
In March Harlequins chalked-up victories over Northampton Saints and Gloucester Rugby and lost by a single point at Sandy Park, to champions, Exeter Chiefs and two points to leaders Bristol Bears, in a 35-33 thriller at Ashton Gate.
Monye adds: “Their philosophy of how they want to play rugby has changed and I think it’s playing to the strengths of some of their key players. Every No.9 on every team is an influential player because they touch the ball more than anyone. Having the framework of the game plan allows the players to express themselves – it’s not just Danny, it’s Marcus Smith, Mike Brown, Alex Dombrandt, the whole spine of their team has stepped up.”
Monye believes there are many similarities between the half-backs at The Twickenham Stoop, the last two winners of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Player of the Month award.
Monye adds: “Danny is in the winter [should this be autumn? – winter sounds a bit harsh!] of his career and Marcus is in the spring of his, but the common thread between the two of them is their drive and their vision of the game, more so than anything. It’s a perfect combination of two great attacking threats with ball in hand and kicking as well. You can see the energy, the symbiotic relationship they have with one another.
“Danny’s ability to take control and manage a game allows Marcus, who is great at controlling a game, to go off and do his thing. Danny’s a big reason why Marcus has played so well, and Marcus works hard and he’s a big reason why Danny is playing so well. In those two key roles, it’s important that they are on the same wavelength and they seem to have been for the last couple of months.
Although Covid-19 restrictions prevented a physical presentation of his award, Harlequins fan, season ticket holder and Gallagher’s managing director of global trade, Matthew Pike said: “More than 15 years after his debut at Quins and Danny Care is as fresh and fierce as ever – very much the in-form scrum-half of the Gallagher Premiership, wholly deserving of this award and rightly tipped for a Lions call up.
“We may not yet be back in the stands at The Stoop but every Quins game has been a compelling watch, with Danny right at the centre of each powerful performance. Throughout March he impressed, inspired and entertained by equal turn, with great tactical play and tries to boot. Congratulations Danny and hopefully it won’t be too long now until we, as a business, can return to all 12 Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs to show and voice our support for this great game and gripping competition at a local level.”
Commenting on the broader picture of Harlequins’ recent performances, Monye added: “With any team you just want them to be themselves, whatever style that is. Exeter Chiefs have a very clear identity, as do Bristol Bears, as do Harlequins now. You can probably say the same for a lot of the teams who have been able to get an element of consistency this season. As an ex-player it’s good to see Harlequins play the way I think they should do. Speaking to the players, they are enjoying this reinvigorated form they’ve found. It brings out the best in them.
“Maybe I’m biased, I’m happy to be that, but Danny’s playing as well as anyone at the moment. That’s why he’s been voted Gallagher Premiership Player of the Month. It’s not just playing well, it’s the timing of when you’re playing well. When Warren Gatland and his Lions coaches will be having these conversations, they’ll be assessing the form of the players, Warren Gatland was at the Bristol v Harlequins game a few weeks ago, and I’m sure will have been impressed with Danny’s all-court game - and so what you want to do is be part of the conversation. The only way to do that is by playing well and Danny is doing that.
“I just want to see more of the same from him. Whether you’re a Quins fan or not, if you enjoy rugby, you probably enjoy the way Danny plays when he’s at his best. The grounds are firm now, the sun is starting to break its way through, and hopefully we’ll have crowds before the end of the season. With some of the rugby Danny has played, you’d love to have crowds. So let’s have more of the same. “
Care – as part of his prize for being named Gallagher Premiership Rugby Player of the Month – has donated a shirt signed by the whole Harlequins squad and framed by Gallagher to a Breast Haven Cancer, to help them raise funds.
Care was judged by a panel of experts as the player who made the biggest impact in Gallagher Premiership Rugby in March 2021.
He was involved in a three-way battle to win the award eventually beating Sale Sharks lock Lood de Jager and Bristol Bears centre Piers O’Conor to the title.
Care was voted for by a panel of media professionals based on his performances in February, alongside a public poll on the Premiership Rugby app, which drew more than 1,600 votes. The judges were: Nick Mullins (BT Sport), Alastair Eykyn (BT Sport), Mick Cleary (The Daily Telegraph), Sarah Mockford (Rugby World), Jonny Fordham (The Sun), Jill Douglas (Broadcaster), Craig Swayne (Fab Rugby), Chris Jones (BBC 5 Live), David Rogers (Getty Images) and Tom Hamilton (ESPN). The panel was chaired by Paul Morgan, Premiership Rugby's Communications Director.
Winners in the 2020-21 season
March - Danny Care (Harlequins)
February - Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
January - Piers O'Connor (Bristol Bears)
December – Alfie Barbeary (Wasps)
November – Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)
Winners in the 2019-20 season
August – Jack Willis (Wasps)
May– Paul Hill and Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints)*
April - Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs) *
March – Jamal Ford-Robinson (Gloucester Rugby)*
February – Charles Piutau (Bristol Bears)
January – Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins)
December - Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby)
November – Tom O’Flaherty (Exeter Chiefs)
* Gallagher ran public polls while play was suspended to nominate a ‘Community Player of the Month’ in recognition of inspiring off-pitch performances made by players during lockdown to support their local communities and boost the morale of the wider rugby community.
Winners in the 2018-19 season
April – Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors)
March – Santiago Cordero (Exeter Chiefs)
February – Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints)
December – Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints)
November – Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby)
October – Alex Goode (Saracens)
September – Danny Cipriani (Gloucester Rugby)
Winners in the 2017-18 season
April – Vereniki Goneva (Newcastle Falcons)
March – Joe Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)
February – Jack Willis (Wasps)
December – Josh Adams (Worcester Warriors)
November – Ruan Ackermann (Gloucester Rugby)
October – Jonny May (Leicester Tigers)
September – Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Winners in the 2016-17 season
April – Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby)
March – Christian Wade (Wasps)
February – James Short (Exeter Chiefs)
December – Tom Varndell (Bristol Rugby)
November – Freddie Burns (Leicester Tigers)
October – Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
September – Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps)
Winners in the 2015-16 season
October – Nick Evans (Harlequins)
November – Nathan Hughes (Wasps)
December – Maro Itoje (Saracens)
January – Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs)
February – George Smith (Wasps)
March – Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors)
April – Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints)
Winners in the 2014-15 season
September – Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)
October – Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby)
November – Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs)
December – Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
January – Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
February – Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
March – Elliot Daly (Wasps)
April – Joe Simpson (Wasps)
Winners in the 2013-14 season
September – Jacques Burger (Saracens)
October – Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
November - George Ford (Bath Rugby)
December – Nick Easter (Harlequins)
January – Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
February – Vereniki Goneva (Leicester Tigers)
March – Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks)
April – Chris Ashton (Saracens)
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