A revealing handwritten letter emerged at the weekend from the England scrum half Danny Care, who wasn't playing in the first Test against New Zealand, to his Harlequins and England colleague Joe Marler, who very much was. And how! 'Joe, Just wanted to wish you all the best when you step on the battlefield tonight,' wrote Care. 'Go hard my friend, I wish I could be out there in the trenches alongside you.' Say what you like about the military metaphor--and I think it's bang-on for a match against the All Blacks--that note says as much about Stuart Lancaster's England as a whole forest of commentary.
The comradely spirit, this band of brothers and all that, is to Lancaster's immense credit and a world away from previous ego-filled teams to tour New Zealand. At the 2011 World Cup, England spent most of the time in bars tossing dwarves or snogging mystery blondes, when they weren't chucking themselves off ferries or generally mucking about. Their rugby was shockingly mediocre.
In 2008, their previous tour, four England players were accused of 'sexually' violating a teenaged waitress after a drunken evening out (they all denied it, and no charges were brought). Two of them, Danny Care and Mike Brown, are stalwarts of the current England side, which shows there is room for redemption under Lancaster. Care, you may remember, also built up a string of offences for relieving himself in public. But clearly this coach would not put up with any more bad behaviour. Once the wastrel NCO, Care has become an inspirational senior officer. Now Lancaster looks like he can rehabilitate Danny Cipriani, too: a miracle-worker indeed.Continue reading