Mike Brown could have easily ducked out of Wednesday’s new-season Gallagher Premiership launch. Thirty days after it was confirmed he was not in Eddie Jones’ England squad for the World Cup he could have let sleeping dogs lie and got on with the daily routine that now revolves around Harlequins.
The 34-year-old is not that type of guy, though. There he was seated at a round table at Twickenham’s Spirit of Rugby facility talking precisely about that – the spirit of rugby. For now, there would be no full disclosure. Not when he considers himself to be still on standby for a Test call-up if an injury arises in Japan.
Some time in the future, when the dust has properly settled, he insists the shackles will come off and he will definitely tell his side of the mysterious story about what precisely happened that fateful week in Treviso. The damaging allegation was that he and Ben Te’o got involved in an altercation that contributed to them being excluded from the Test squad for the August 11 game against Wales, the day prior to the World Cup squad announcement that neither were chosen for.
Did what occurred in Italy mark the end? Brown couldn’t say for certain. “We’re not in Eddie’s head, so we don’t know what cost me selection, or whether I was going to get selected, whether I was close or whatever,” he said at what was the day’s most attended interview at the Premiership launch in London.
“It’s not right at the moment (to go into detail) because I don’t feel comfortable talking about it. I’ll speak about it in my own time, but the people who are close to me know the details and that’s most important for me.
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“For me I think 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’s more important for them to focus on what they are doing. But obviously the World Cup won’t last forever, so there will be a time and a point where I feel comfortable and the time is right to speak about what my experiences were.
“It’s important that the people close to me and who matter in my life, my family and my close friends, my team-mates, they know what happened. And for everyone else, the details will come out when the time is right… when the details come out people will know how everyone in that situation handled themselves. And I’ve got no regrets.”
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What Brown does confirm is that there has been no contact with Te’o since Treviso and this his own gut-wrenching let-down by Jones was delivered by telephone. “No. He’s in France, isn’t he?” he replied when asked had he spoken to Te’o before moving on to address the issue of being released by Jones.
“His message to all of us players is ‘be ready because you never know what’s going to happen’… I think everyone who was in the 45 who isn’t in Japan is on standby, that’s my understanding.
“I was in the 45, I have no regrets about anything that happened through pre-season because I gave my all. I came into camp in the best shape of my career, felt fit, sharp, good. I put everything I could into training, I didn’t miss one second of training, even with niggles and things like that.
In the 2019 Six Nations, nearly half of England's tries came from counter-attack. A revived ability to score in transition was part of their return to form, writes @bensmithrugby https://t.co/evLNvZ3115 #rwc #rugbyworldcup #england
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 10, 2019
“I’m not sure how many other players could say that – I did every second, every minute of every session when I was in camp. But it didn’t go my way. Eddie’s the boss, so who are we to argue with his selection? But I’ve got no regrets.
“I still feel I’m the best English full-back, that’s not being arrogant. That’s just what I believe… look at the stats, look at my game, I am the best under the high ball. I’ve worked so hard on that, it’s one of my points of difference.
“I don’t need people to tell me if it is or it isn’t, I know it is. I made it one of my points of difference and that’s what I hang my hat on,” he continued, insisting he hasn’t thought about retirement from international rugby on the back of his RWC exclusion.
“Oh, I’d never do that, that’s not what I’m about. I feel you could be any age but if you’re at the top of your game, why shouldn’t you be playing? I feel that people like LeBron James, Roger Federer, I’m not saying at all that I’m at their level, but they are getting on a bit but are still at the top of their game.
“I would say it would take a brave head coach to pick me because I’m sure there would be a massive backlash with me, being the player I am and being older. I feel as soon as you get past 30 you are over the hill. I do think that. I think that’s the perception of people in professional sport.
“It’s obviously heartbreaking to miss out, you want to put things right from 2015. You want to be involved in the exciting things coming up. I’ve worked hard my whole career to be involved in these big tournaments.
Prem Rugby Launch well under way ??
New season, new kits, same big name stars ? pic.twitter.com/O3WpkDfzG6
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) September 11, 2019
“I still feel I’m the best full-back for England. If I didn’t feel that I would have stopped playing for England. But like I said, selection is one man’s choice, and he’s the main man with that job. Unfortunately, it didn’t go my way this time.”
Picking up the pieces has been considerably assisted by the approach of Paul Gustard, his boss at Harlequins. “I’ve been going a long time now but I’ve come back into Quins, and credit to Paul with the way he’s handled me. It’s been great.
“Firstly with the disappointment, secondly with managing me with the support. He gave me a week off last week and that’s the first time I’ve had time off over my birthday, so it gave me a chance to go away with the family. So that’s refreshed me and now I’m looking forward to the season and, like everyone else, just desperate to play some rugby,” he continued before adding that he expects England to go well in his absence.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 11, 2019
“I can’t see why not. They’ve had a good pre-season in training, I’ve seen that. They’ve played pretty well. It’s going to be a close World Cup, probably the closest ever.
“South Africa are looking good, New Zealand may not have played to their best but they will be different when they reach the World Cup. Then teams like Ireland and Wales, you never know because they are tough competitors who can turn it on on their day.”
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