Wednesday 13 December 2017

Brown's Schmeichel impersonation helps full-back flyer to excel in defence as well as attack

Ireland player Rob Kearney fails to halt England fullback Mike Brown from making a break to set up the winning try
Ireland player Rob Kearney fails to halt England fullback Mike Brown from making a break to set up the winning try

Gavin Mairs

Mike Brown has revealed that the secret behind his sensational diving catch from a volley by Brian O'Driscoll was the result of a football training drill at his club Harlequins called 'The Schmeichel' after the former Manchester United goalkeeper.

Brown said that he and Danny Care, a former member of the Sheffield Wednesday football academy, regularly used the drill as part of their warm-up routine before training sessions at their English Premiership club.

Brown's take, hailed by Ireland coach Joe Schmidt as the defensive highlight of the match, came after O'Driscoll had kicked ahead on the full from a chip over the England defence by Jonathan Sexton. The England full-back prevented what would have almost certainly been a try for Ireland in only the third minute of a contest that was ultimately decided by the finest of margins.

"Danny and I play a game when we are warming up at Quins, we call it Schmeichel, after the great Peter Schmeichel, where we just blast balls at each other to see if we can save them," said Brown, a Manchester United supporter who used to play as a goalkeeper when he was at Peter Symonds School in Winchester.

"Obviously I'm the last line of defence so I have to do everything I can to make sure the ball doesn't go behind me because I know we're in a bit of strife if it does."

Care, a Liverpool supporter, was suitably impressed that the hard work far from the bright lights of Twickenham paid off when it mattered most, with Brown denying O'Driscoll the chance to break clear.

"It was like having Edwin van der Sar at the back there," said Care, with a smile. "We practise a few of them. Every now and then I whack a few balls at him. I thought he (Brown) was outstanding, a rock at the back, and going forward he is brilliant.

"He has a great kicking game and he can sort people out with tries. He has been outstanding for us."

The self-improving desire of Brown and Care reflects the work ethic at the heart of this England squad and drew rich praise from Schmidt.

"I thought Mike Brown's goalkeeper save when there was no one behind him in the first half was probably the defensive highlight," Schmidt said. "His broken-field running was maybe the difference between the two teams, when he got the space and put Danny Care away. I thought it was great play from Mike Brown, he hit that line really well."

Care's support run was timed to perfection as he finished off Brown's break from an off-load by Chris Robshaw. "It was a great off-load by Robbo and we have been working a lot this week on pushing through and supporting breaks. When Browny got the ball I thought there might be a chance of an off-load so it was great work by him to set me up and an unbelievable feeling to go under the sticks at Twickenham," Care added.

Brown, who has now won successive man of the match awards for England, has set his sights on Wales and making amends for the record 30-3 defeat by Wales in Cardiff last season.

"We're growing in confidence with every good performance we put in – knowing there's still a lot to work on, knowing we left points out there," added Brown, who admitted there was still pain "in my head" about that Wales defeat. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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