Veteran Harlequins full-back Mike Brown has revisited his 17-month-old bust-up with Ben Te’o which was the precursor to Eddie Jones not picking him for the England 2019 World Cup squad, an omission that marked the end of the 35-year-old’s respected 72-cap Test career.
It was in September, 30 days after he had been left out of the England squad for the finals in Japan, that Brown first broke his silence regarding what had allegedly taken place on team bonding social in Treviso following a warm-weather training camp in the Italian heat.
Speaking at the time in a Twickenham function room at the launch of the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership season with Harlequins, Brown diplomatically said: “For me, it’s right to say that it’s not the right time to go into full details of what happened.
“I always try to stick to the team ethos and it wouldn’t be right for me with the guys preparing for a World Cup, Eddie and the players, to start talking about things that went on during the pre-season.”
It was then last summer when Te’o, who also hasn’t played for England since the Treviso incident and is now currently with NRL outfit Brisbane Broncos, admitted he hadn’t spoken to Brown since the fall-out from that August 2019 night out in Italy.
Mike Brown joins Christina and Jamie to chat through his career ups and downs, including what it's like to play under Eddie Jones ?
He also spoke on the disappointment of getting knocked out of a home World Cup and much more!
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 20, 2021
Now, Brown has had his say on the Te’o matter. Appearing as a guest on the latest RugbyPass Offload in the company of Wales and ex-Harlequins midfielder Jamie Roberts, the full-back was candid in his recollection of what unfolded at the England squad social and believes it was a shame that this was his last involvement after a dozen years representing his country.
Asked had he finally made peace with Te’o, Brown said: “To be fair to him he reached out with a message to me quite soon afterwards and I wasn’t really in a place to respond. I had just been dumped out of the World Cup squad and that (incident) happened at pretty much the same time.
“It felt like that what happened to me was used as an excuse not to select me, which wasn’t the case I don’t think. Back then I wasn’t in a place to reply to him. Maybe if he did now I’m not sure, I probably would respond.
“It was a situation you don’t want to find yourself in, a situation I was trying to avoid the best way I could at the time and then for it to lead into not making the World Cup squad, all of that put together it just created an incredibly tough time for me.
“No knew what happened and I was just keeping my head down. It wasn’t my place to say things. So yeah, it was tough, but mainly because I didn’t go to the World Cup. I was still playing some of my best rugby. I was told I was just a defensive full-back whereas Elliot Daly was an attacking full-back.
“But my performances and stats for Quins were great. Like, my attack stats were the best they had ever been since I started playing rugby, so I wasn’t really sure what else I could do. So that added together with the Ben Te’o situation made it a tough time. Things happened on a social.
“I’m not a bit drinker,” continued the player first capped for England in 2007. “It was the same case for that social. I had a few at the end of an incredibly tough block of training and Eddie and the senior players had really emphasised the fact that we needed to socialise and enjoy these times together so I bought into that by having a few, probably two or three in the group of guys that were probably more sat having a social beer and having a chat and enjoying each other’s company.
“Te’o was more in with the group that wanted to get a bit loose and really enjoy the social. Each to their own but then you try to mix those two groups and things start to happen. The way Te’o is, he is a bit of a wind-up merchant, he likes to try and wind people up and obviously he had a few too many as well. Things then escalated.
Mike Brown fronts up at the Gallagher Premiership launch in his first interview since being excluded from England's World Cup squad https://t.co/0KLOYYQgL4
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 11, 2019
“All I can say for myself is I tried the best way I could to avoid the situation. It would have been nice probably to have other staff and players trying to help me in that situation. Funnily enough, the only guys that did try and help me in this situation were the young guys from Quins, (Alex) Dombrandt and March (Joe Marchant) who really stepped up to try and quash the situation before it escalated which was nice actually to see that from them. But then it did escalate. Things happened and it is what it is, I guess.”
Reflecting on the outcome, Brown added: “A fat black eye to go with the non-selection as well. Te’o is a handy one with his fists. He doesn’t like to do a lot of rugby training but he does a lot of boxing on the side of the pitch and he definitely showed that in what he gave me that day.
“Things happen on a social. I tried the best way I could to stop it before it started escalating because I didn’t want to be in that situation. Jamie knows what I’m like, I’m not a big drinker. I’m not one for it and I get a bit of stick at Quins for not being the most sociable guy.
“I’m not one for massive socials but I was trying to buy into what the (England) team wanted and I was actually having a really good time just conversing with guys that I didn’t usually get to speak to on a good level. At the end of a tough training block, it was just a shame it ended the way it did and that was my last sort of moment being involved with England, which is a shame.”
"Sometimes it works, sometimes guys just can’t handle it at all and then you don’t see them ever again”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 21, 2021
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