Tuesday 21 November 2017

England's kicking game given free range, insists full-back Brown

England full-back Mike Brown during training. Photo: Henry Browne / Action Images via Reuters
England full-back Mike Brown during training. Photo: Henry Browne / Action Images via Reuters
David Kelly

David Kelly

He that would have eggs must endure the cackling of hens.

Eddie Jones has spent much of the build-up to this Saturday's Twickenham week cackling in Ireland's direction. Much of last week too.

Many of his messages are of the scatter-gun variety - few here noticed but his declaration that his internationals are 30pc fitter than their Premiership counterparts is frankly preposterous - but it is highly entertaining.

Some would say more entertaining than the Six Nations fare on the field. Harsh, perhaps, but not entirely unfair.

Last week, as Jones began his spectacularly incorrect assessment of Ireland's kicking game, he claimed that his side would train with raw eggs and soft hands in preparation for the expected aerial bombardment.

Ireland, too, have done their bit for the industry this week; Keith Earls was forced to flatten an egg upon his head.

He was punished, not for attempting an offload but for missing a Yoga session. For anyone who worries about the direction the sport is heading, this is literally stretching things a bit too far.

Flexibility of mind may be more important than pliability of limb but England, voracious launchers of Garryowens themselves this season, are preparing for the Heathrow flight path to be peppered with aerial bombs.

A pain in the neck for everyone else, especially those in the crowd craning their necks skyward, but this is now routine for the Six Nations as England full-back Mike Brown remarks. "That might be why he is chucking eggs at us in the food room!" the Harlequins man smiles. "I am doing the same drills I always do. We do it every week and every day."

This fixture has been marked by such battles - from Shane Horgan's appropriately defining take in Croke Park to Robbie Henshaw's sizzling snaffle 12 months ago.

England have profited too, dominating September's Twickenham warm-up; as Ireland have derived from GAA, the English have looked to icons like Aussie star Israel Folau and the NFL's Odell Beckham.

"The kicking game in the international game is massive now," adds Brown. "Everyone uses it. For us, we are just always working on our high ball skills."

A courageous heart is required to linger far above the earth where instant peril awaits.

"You don't really think about it. You can tell when someone goes at it half-hearted. They usually don't come away with the ball or get anywhere near it. You get used to knocks in the air, falling awkwardly."

And you get used to doing what it takes to win. By fair means or, well, fowl.

Irish Independent

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