Six Nations 2014: Kelly Brown never considered quitting Scotland
Six Nations 2014: Kelly Brown insists he never considered turning his back on Scotland after his recent omission
Kelly Brown has revealed he never considered calling time on his international career despite being axed after just 56 minutes of this season’s Six Nations.
The 31-year-old flanker was made the scapegoat for Scotland’s dismal 28-6 defeat in Dublin against Ireland in the opening fixture after continuing to be shoe-horned into openside for his country under the insistence of head coach Scott Johnson, a decision former hooker Colin Deans described in this month’s Rugby World magazine as “a bit like asking Andy Murray to play at Wimbledon left-handed.”
Johnson’s treatment of his captain, much-loved by the Scottish supporters, led to an uproar from former players and Scotland faithful, which only intensified after the Saracens man was left out of the squad for the Calcutta Cup calamity at Murrayfield and the narrow win over the Italians in Rome in their last outing, with Johnson deciding Brown needed to work on his defensive game and was sent back to London.
After Glasgow Warriors’s natural openside Chris Fusaro debuted against England and retained his place for the Italian job, Brown has, somehow, forced his way back into the starting XV for this weekend’s Murrayfield match-up against France. In Johnson’s words, it was a “better fit” to have Brown in against Philippe Saint-Andre’s side.
“Playing for Scotland is something I used to dream of as a child and it’s a very, very special honour,” Brown said on Thursday.
“I know that in professional sport, the road is not always smooth and so I just saw it as one more challenge that I was looking forward to overcoming.”
Four weeks is seemingly a long time in professional rugby and Johnson’s ongoing dialogue with the coaching staff at the Aviva Premiership club, and his admiration for Brown the human and rugby player, has been enough to convince him that he is again the man for the job and, with that, resume his role as captain, despite playing for Sarries on the blindside rather than where Johnson prefers him to be.
“There is no doubt I was very disappointed because I absolutely love playing for Scotland and it is something I would never take for granted,” Brown added. “But it is fantastic to be back in the side.
“Scott has been very open and honest with me the whole way through and we’ve had good chats. That’s not to say we always agree but I think as long as we’re both open and honest with each other then that’s a good thing.
“I’ve taken what he said on board and I’ve been working on it and I feel my form at Saracens over the last month has been pretty good.”
It is a tale of unwavering sadness that the fully-fit captain with 61 international caps in a nine-year international career was forced to watch Scotland’s win in Rome from the comfort of his living room rather than leading his country as his friends and colleagues snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at the Stadio Olimpico as Duncan Weir’s last-gasp drop goal secured a 21-20 win.
“I watched the Italy match at home,” Brown continued. “I was absolutely thrilled, not just for Duncan but for the rest of the team. The boys were under a lot of pressure that week but I thought the way they played over there to secure the first win in Rome for quite a number of years was very impressive to watch.
“I would have loved to have been involved the same as every single player in the Scotland squad but I was absolutely delighted for all the boys because I know the pressure they were under and I thought the way they responded was fantastic.”
With Brown granted a reprieve by the coach, he has the chance to put in a personal performance that will prove he shouldn’t have been dropped after all, but more importantly lead his team to victory.
France’s pack has been diminished somewhat with injuries to marauding flanker Yannick Nyanga and stand-in hooker Dimitri Szarzewski, while number 8 Louis Picamoles—one of France’s best players this championship—has been unceremoniously dropped for a lack of respect for officials in the Wales match.
Johnson has prepped his charges by telling them to expect the unexpected. The notion that it is impossible to gauge which French team may turn up on the day rang true last month when an unbeaten France side were blown away by a Wales team that had been thoroughly unimpressive in their opening two matches.
So far this championship, France have failed to last the course. Against the English and Italians, they won matches with short spells of pressure which resulted in tries scored, but they were noticeably absent for the rest. Even line-breaks against Wales failed to bring any meaningful reward.
It wouldn’t be entirely surprising if the threat from Saint-Andre about international careers sinks in and France bring their A game to Murrayfield – it’s what they do, and Brown knows Scotland will need to be at their best to get a win.
“The French will be an incredibly tough test,” he said. “They didn’t play that well against Wales a fortnight ago but I also think that Wales were very strong that night.
“But in saying that, after the first two matches everybody was tipping France for the Championship, so they’re an incredibly tough side and we know that we need to be at our best to challenge them on Saturday.”