Eddie Jones’ decision to drop Danny Care from his England Six Nations squad was branded ‘baffling’ by Care’s Harlequins team-mate Tim Visser.
Care, 32, is England’s most-capped scrum-half and was left out for uncapped Wasps 26-year-old Dan Robson, possibly signalling the end of his 84-cap international career.
Care was dropped from England’s last game against Australia after a ropey performance against Japan but is in excellent club form, scoring five tries this year and signing a new two-year deal with Quins on Monday.
“Danny’s been brilliant this year. How he’s not in that squad baffles me, the way he’s been setting up tries with his feet, his hands, in every single way.
“He’s been extremely sharp, so to not see him in that squad really did surprise me,” said Visser.
Care, who has made more than 250 appearances for Quins, assisted the former Scotland wing on numerous occasions last season, including an inch-perfect cross-kick for Visser’s famous last-minute winning score against Saracens.
Visser said: “He’s been doing it consistently – left foot, right foot, it doesn’t seem to matter to him.
“He set Joe Marchant up for a try against Agen which was just pure magic – you don’t see any of the other 9s in the Premiership doing that.
“That’s obviously not the issue Eddie is looking at, but you need someone like that in your team.
“Whenever he’s come off the bench for England he’s made such an impact, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want him in your squad.”
Dutch-born Visser also backed Care’s club team-mates Nathan Earle, Marcus Smith, Lewis Boyce and Joe Marchant to return to the England squad.
“Nathan Earle is in a really difficult position to establish himself because the competition for places is incredible.
“He’s got the hardest task out of all of them to come in, but he’s a young boy and an incredibly good player, so I expect him to take his chance at some point.
“They all know that’s how it works and if they keep working hard their chance will come,” he added.
Also given a contract extension by Quins on Monday was 20-year-old winger Gabriel Ibitoye, who alongside 19-year-old full-back Cadan Murley with nine, has featured eight times this season, both dotting down twice.
Former Scotland international Visser, who scored 14 tries in 33 games for his country, has only made four appearances without scoring due to injury but happily accepts his new mentoring role.
He said: “It’s about passing on the shirt. I’m 31 now, I’ve played for years, but these players need to come through and take their chances, and they’ve done that at Harlequins.
“It’s really good to see, even though it’s meant that I’ve not played as much as I would have wanted to.
“That’s the exciting part of professional sport, people taking opportunities and showing they can do things you wouldn’t have expected them to.
“I try to help both wherever I can as much as I can in terms of mentoring, not that they need it!”
This season the south west London side are in third after finishing tenth last campaign, and Visser insists new head of rugby Paul Gustard is crucial to their improvement.
“He’s really turned things around,” he said.
“We’re just doing the basics really well, making sure everyone is disciplined and working incredibly hard.
“He’s really pulled our defence together – he’s one of the most detailed coaches I’ve been under, and I’ve been under a few!
“He doesn’t let anything rest, at every training session there’s feedback for every single player on how they can do better.
“At the start that was quite daunting, because you constantly felt like you were doing things wrong, but he’s just trying to make you a better player and he’s having an incredible effect on the squad.”
Edinburgh record scorer Visser backed current Murrayfield men Darcy Graham and Blair Kinghorn to provide the X-factor out wide for Scotland during the Six Nations, which begins on Friday at 8pm with France v Wales.
Visser said: “The one to definitely look out for, if he does get the chance, is Darcy.
“He’s been incredible in the Champions Cup in the last couple of weeks and that try he scored against Toulon was memorable – he’s a really natural finisher.
“Blair Kinghorn’s also extremely exciting to watch.
“A very rangy player, very natural, really good skills, can do a lot of his things off both hands which is really good to see.
“He’s a good kicker, good under the high ball, everything you’d expect from a full-back, although he’ll probably start on the wing.”
The man second on the all-time Pro14 try-scoring list – with 58, behind Tommy Bowe’s 67 – also declared he appreciated the difficulties of being an international since retiring from Scotland duty in May 2018.
“The demands on international players are enormous nowadays, you almost play all year round
“When you are an international you do tend to play or at least train ten, eleven months of the year, and that brings challenges with it.
“I wasn’t playing much any more, I was on the fringes so I wasn’t getting the reward for my efforts.
“Being in exile from Scotland and playing down here, plus the travelling – it’s not even that far but it brings a lot of uncertainty, it makes planning really hard.
“It’s really hard on the family and it was taking its toll on mine,” he said.
Tim Visser was speaking at the Last Drop Out competition launch in association with Greene King IPA at The George in Twickenham.
The competition runs in participating pubs until March 31st, with potential prizes including a trip to see England play at the Rugby World Cup in Japan in autumn 2019.