England’s second most capped scrum-half Danny Care has revealed his hurt at being left out of Eddie Jones’ squad for the World Cup.
Jones announced his 31-man squad for the tournament in Japan last week with Ben Youngs and Willi Heinz chosen to wear the number nine jersey.
Heinz’ inclusion in the squad may have come as a surprise to many given that the 32-year-old only one his first cap for England earlier this month. The Gloucester player is New Zealand born and previously played for the Crusaders in the Super Rugby. He qualifies for England through his grandmother.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Care maintained he had no personal issue with Heinz but admitted that it stung to be dropped for a player of a different nationality.
“I would be lying if I said it didn’t sting a little bit more,” Care said. “It took me by surprise that they had gone for Willi. That’s not his fault.
“I have got nothing against Willi. He is a nice guy. I’ve met him a few times, played against him a few times. I never knew he had aspirations to play for England. I never knew he could play for England.
“When he came into that Barbarians week, he took me back a bit because I didn’t know how long he had been in the country or that he had an English grandmother.
“It was interesting to see him there and then to get the call ahead of you … obviously it hurts. I think with people from other countries, I have probably never experienced it in my position before, when you see guys come in like Brad Shields, whether through the residency or the grandmother. I had never been pushed out because of someone from another country.
“I had probably been a bit naive to that and just accepted it happens to other people, felt sorry for them, but thought it would never happen to me. But then when it happens to you, it does sting. It really hurts.”
Despite an international career that spans 11 years and 84 caps, Care has only made one appearance at a World Cup, against Uruguay in 2015, when England had already been eliminated.
World Cup disappointment is nothing new to the 32-year-old but it hurt no less when the minute-long conversation with Jones occurred.
“When you see the name, you know what is going to happen. I am big enough and it has happened to me enough times that I can accept it. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt like it always does when you are dropped. Particularly for a World Cup. That’s my last chance to play in one.
“It was not anger, just disappointment that this had been my aim for so long. Since I won my first cap in 2008, the reason I was there was to win a World Cup with England. I never really had a proper crack to help the team to do that.
“In 2015, I sat in the stands and didn’t touch a ball before we were out. Since Eddie came in, he put a clock up on the wall counting down the weeks, days and hours until the World Cup final. I felt I was part of that mission and now I am not there to finish it off.
“He [Jones] just said, ‘Stay sharp, stay ready, you never know,’ ” he explained. “I know Ben and Dan [Robson] have been in the training squad ahead of me so I don’t know if he will go for them or if something happened to one of the nines then he would want a bit more experience.”