- Quins star hoping to build on autumn experience
- Running strength could be key to unlocking defences
Having shown himself capable of handling the pressure at the highest level during the QBE Internationals this autumn, England’s Mike Brown is again targeting a start on Saturday against Scotland and says his strength going forward, from either full back or wing, is an asset to the side.
The Harlequins star forced his way into Stuart Lancaster's line-up at the end of last year, starting the matches against South Africa and New Zealand. While Brown traditionally had been played at full back in domestic competition with Quins, Lancaster opted to start him on the wing – a shrewd move as Brown was quick to impress with two solid performances.
When England beat New Zealand 35-21 at Twickenham in December Brown featured heavily with eight carries, adding to the seven carries he made against South Africa, all of which took him over the gain line. The 27-year-old’s ability to stay on his feet and his outright strength in contact is what is making him a strong option for Lancaster in any role in the back-three.
The No.15 shirt is being fought over by three top names with Saracens full back Alex Goode, Northampton Saints' Ben Foden and Brown all in the running to start against Scotland. However with experience on the wing during the autumn Brown is confident that his skill set has benefited and that he can again offer a lot going forward in either position.
“In the modern game full backs and wings have interchangeable skills,” said Brown. “Obviously there are a few differences in position but you know playing as a full back week-in-week-out you have to marshal the wings and know what their roles and positions are, so you use that when you move out to the wing.
“One of my strengths is my running lines, how hard I run and how I manage to stay on my feet. That’s one of the reasons I got into the squad. I ran hard and that’s what the team wanted from me and I delivered.”
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Brown’s strengths in defence, especially under the high ball and his tactical kicking, got him a place on the bench in last year’s RBS Six Nations meeting, which England won 13-6. The Calcutta Cup clash is always highly anticipated and the Auld Enemy rivalry is already in full swing after former Scotland coach Jim Telfer told the Daily Mail that England are “too arrogant, too pretentious and too condescending.”
Recalling the hostile atmosphere at Murrayfield last year, Brown said that the rivalry in the media will not affect the players or coaching staff.
“My first memory last year was rocking up to the stadium on the bus and getting expletives shouted at me and a few hand gestures, which was nice!” he said. “The bagpipes were playing which was brilliant and it was brilliant to get on the pitch in that atmosphere and get the win as well.
“We don’t really read into things like that [in the media] either. We just focus on our roles and what we need to do as a team and let our coaches read that and chuckle to themselves."