Danny Care saved England from disaster against Samoa on Saturday after realising he had to back up his Alan Shearer-style try-scoring celebration.
Care stepped off the bench at Stade Pierre-Mauroy to race over for the 74th minute touchdown that was converted by Owen Farrell, snatching an 18-17 victory which was kind to Steve Borthwick’s side.
Upon racing over from a five metre-scrum, the veteran Harlequins scrum-half raised his left arm aloft and looked up to the stands, mimicking England and Newcastle football great Shearer.
Care then made a crucial intervention seconds from full-time when he made a try-saving tackle on wing Neria Fomai as Samoa staged a last-ditch assault on the line that fell metres short.
“It has been on my mind that I haven’t scored many tries for England, especially recently being out of the fold for a few years you never think you’re going to get another opportunity like that,” Care said.
“I decided that if I did do it, I’ll enjoy it and if you do decide to do an Alan Shearer celebration across the stadium you better make that tackle after!
“I don’t really remember the tackle – it was a blur – but I remember thinking you can’t celebrate like Alan Shearer and not make that tackle!
“The boys put their body on the line for 80 minutes so the least you can do when you’ve been on the bench is run back and try and tackle.
“Hopefully that shows a bit about what we’re about as a team. Even though it wasn’t a brilliant performance, we work hard for each other.”
Once again England found a way to win when the game was slipping away – no mean feat for a side that in recent times was prone to imploding when the pressure came on.
And although it propelled them into the quarter-finals as Pool D winners, it was a deflating performance coming in the wake of feelgood victories against Argentina, Japan and Chile.
Borthwick claimed the full-blooded encounter against an inspired Samoa was the ideal build-up to the knockout phase and Care agrees.
“If we had won that game by 20-30 points and scored a load of tries, would that be great prep for next week? I don’t think so,” Care said.
Welcome Sam Underhill
The flanker will join up with the squad in Lille today ahead of England’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final on Sunday 15 October in Marseille. pic.twitter.com/JdFjEhRMuI
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 8, 2023
“In a way, now we’ve probably had the perfect game to prep for next week. It was scrappy, Samoa threw everything into every breakdown, we gave away too many penalties, we lost the ball too many times and we know why already.
“We know what not to do. I hope the fans believe in us that we will be better. We have to be or we’ll find ourselves on a plane home.
“A lot of hard work starts this week but we’re four from four, in a quarter final and we can get out there and get to the next stage.”