'Unbelievable' Mike Brown verdict on new England full-back Steward
Mike Brown has run his critical eye over the new England full-back Freddie Steward and given the first Test season rookie a glowing review for how he has fared so far in the No15 jersey. The 21-year-old Leicester player made his Test debut last July and has been capped as a starter in the last ten England games, nine times at full-back.
It’s been a rapid emergence for Steward compared to the start Brown had in his England Test career, playing twice on a 2007 tour and then waiting a year until he was capped again. However, the 36-year-old is still very much well-placed to give an opinion on Steward having gone on to win a total of 72 caps – 54 as the starting full-back – across his eventually stellar international career from 2007 to 2018.
Skills in the air were key to Brown enjoying his lengthy career with England and he reckons Steward, a far bigger unit physically, is set for quite a considerable stint at full-back after a debut season where he showed signs that he has world-class talent.
“I managed to make it a super strength of mine and luckily it has paid off because it is so important in international rugby now but I do wish I had that extra five inches in height that Freddie Steward has because he is 6ft 5 and is unbelievable under the high ball. He is class, a big old unit,” said Brown during his Rugby Roots interview with Jim Hamilton on RugbyPass.
“He is well on his way to being talked about as world-class if he isn’t already. As a full-back myself, when I look at other full-backs I firstly look at how good they are in their fundamentals of a full-back… their high ball skills, their decision making from the back because if you can’t make decisions from the back you are going to put your team under pressure, and then all the highlights stuff will come off the back of that.
“People nowadays, especially on social media, look at the highlights stuff first and foremost. ‘Oh, he made one great run, he must have been unbelievable today’, but he has actually dropped two high balls and thrown three crap passes and has put his team under pressure by running it up from his own sticks.
“So when I look at Freddie he has got all these fundamentals locked down in my opinion. He makes great decisions from the back, doesn’t put his team under pressure, he can run, kick or pass on his counter attack, he has got the physique 100 per cent, way better than mine, so he is strong, he is powerful, he adds that strength in the England backline they have been maybe missing when Manu is not there joining the line, he has got a good boot and he is a great one-on-one tackler.
“Maybe they missed for the last couple of years with Elliot (Daly) playing out of position. Sometimes people think you can chuck anyone in at full-back but once you are back there in the wide-open spaces and the ball is getting pumped onto you, especially when a team knows it is something you don’t really like, it can be a dark time.”
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