- Full back admits Lions non-selection has motivated him
- Brown wants England to stop “leaving tries out there”
Mike Brown has been in scintillating form for the best part of a calendar year now, and the England full back is determined to maintain that with another lively showing against Italy to finish the RBS 6 Nations.
Brown was excellent again for Stuart Lancaster’s in a 29-18 win over Wales at Twickenham, profiting from the visitors’ wayward kicking game to beat seven defenders.
Set to start his 10th consecutive Test in the 15 jersey since moving across the back three for June’s tour of South America, the Harlequin pondered the reasons for his exceptional stretch.
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“I think it’s about being prepared,” he said. “When I did finally get an opportunity at 15 I was ready to fulfil my role and play at the highest level.
“Being involved on the wing the year before gave me a lot of confidence – it helped me get involved and get my hands on the ball. I learnt so much as well that I could transfer to the 15 jersey.”
Despite playing out of position for a big part of the 2012/3 season, Brown was tipped for a place on last summer’s British and Irish Lions tour to Australia.
However, along with the likes of Chris Robshaw, Tom Wood and Danny Care, he was overlooked by Warren Gatland. The 28 year-old is not too proud that such a snub has spurred him on.
“My focus is on the team I’m playing for. That’s England at the moment and it’ll be Quins when I go back there.
“Obviously I was massively disappointed not to be selected last summer. I thought I did a decent job and showed what I could do in the Heineken Cup for my club as well. I tried to swing that into a positive and use that as motivation.”
Brown’s electric, wiry running from deep, seemingly always outmuscling the first opposition tackler, has been an indelible trademark of his past 12 months. In the past weeks though, he has been more prominent in phase-play.
Lancaster places a great deal of emphasis on two-sided attacks – players lining up either side of a breakdown to present options for the scrum half and stretch a defence – and Brown says has taken it took it upon himself become a key part of that structure.
“Counter-attack has always been one of my strengths and I think I showed that in the QBE Internationals by running from deep.
“Stuart challenged me to get involved more in phase-play in the final third and I challenged myself there, too – I wanted to get in at first-receiver two create two-sided attacks.
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“It’s about keeping working at that, reviewing when it’s worked in a game and trying to take the right options. I’m taking myself out of my comfort zone.”
Finally, Brown focussed on the imminent assignment at the Stadio Olimpico. If they make up a 49-point deficit to Ireland, who travel to Paris, England can add a Championship to the Triple Crown they clinched at Twickenham last time out.
Even so, Brown warned that recklessness would be ill-advised and that a controlled, cohesive attacking performance must be the overwhelming aim.
“The mentality is just to go out there and win,” he said. “We aren’t focussing on scorelines or anything. We want to continue playing the way we have been and finish a few more of the opportunities we have been creating.
“We’ve left a few tries out there and we are aiming for the perfect performance, or as close as we can get to it. We want to keep our defence at the level it has been and make teams uncomfortable, but playing in the right areas and taking chances is so important.
“In any international you need to be clinical because we are playing against high-class players who can pull something out of the bag at any point.”