Monday 18 November 2019

Bad loser Brown back to provide competitive edge for England

England's Mike Brown
England's Mike Brown

Chris Hewett

"Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser." So said the wildly successful American football boss Vince Lombardi, whose influence on Stuart Lancaster touched parts other philosopher-coaches failed to reach.

Lombardi also appears to have left a mark on Mike Brown, which may explain why England coach Lancaster was so desperate to reinstate the Harlequins player at full-back for this afternoon's clash with Scotland at Twickenham.

By his own admission, Brown is the polar opposite of a good loser.

"I'm pretty bad at accepting defeat. When Stuart says I have a 'winning mentality', I think he means I just get grumpy when I don't get things all my own way," he says.

The defeat in Ireland a fortnight ago served as a reminder that England can go eerily quiet when shorn of their most profoundly competitive spirits, and that they are not quite accomplished enough to compensate through the technical quality of their rugby alone.

Brown has shaken off the effects of the concussion he suffered during the victory over Italy in round two, and has been recalled to face the Scots.

This is hard on Alex Goode, who played at No 15 in Dublin and battled as hard as anyone.

He has a broader range of skills than his rival and, as Lancaster has indicated, he more than holds his own when it comes to the "measurables" of the game. Yet when it comes to the "intangibles", the coach says it is the Harlequin who makes the strongest case.

Brown watched the defeat in Dublin from the comfort of his own sofa - not that he was comfortable for long. "It was not a good day. I had to have a quiet word with myself at half-time, because I was fuming," he said. "Unfortunately, my fiancée had to go through it with me, poor lady."

That familiar mix of angst and attitude will be much in evidence today. He is not of a mind to soften his approach just because he took a smack on the head against Italy, although he admits he is "pleased we've all been made more aware of the implications of concussion," adding: "In the past I'd probably have tried to bluff my way through it in an effort to play against Ireland and put myself in danger".

Lancaster believes this implacable competitiveness will give his team some backbone.

But can England truly do themselves justice in the eyes of the rugby public against opponents whose horrible record at Twickenham - one draw and 14 defeats since their last victory in 1983 - puts the home side in "damned if they do, damned if they don't" territory? (© Independent News Service)

England - M Brown; A Watson, J Joseph, L Burrell, J Nowell; G Ford, B Youngs; J Marler, D Hartley, D Cole, D Attwood, C Lawes, J Haskell (Wasps), C Robshaw (capt), B Vunipola. Reps: T Youngs, M Vunipola, K Brookes, G Parling, T Wood, R Wigglesworth, D Cipriani, B Twelvetrees.

Scotland - S Hogg; D Fife, M Bennett, M Scott, T Seymour; F Russell, G Laidlaw (capt); A Dickinson, R Ford, E Murray; J Hamilton, J Gray; R Harley, B Cowan, D Denton. Reps: F Brown, R Grant, G Cross, T Swinson, J Beattie, A Ashe, S Hidalgo-Clyne, Greig Tonks.

Ref - R Poite (France)

England v Scotland,

Live, BBC/RTE, 5.0

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