Brown had to take off his pass­ing blink­ers to be a Lion

The Rugby Paper - - European Champions Cup Final Verdict -

YOU would have to have an ice block rather than a heart not to em­pathise with Mike Brown, and all the other Home Unions play­ers, whose hopes were dashed when they missed out on se­lec­tion for the 2017 Lions.

Even Warren Gat­land was in touchy-feely mode when, hav­ing heard that the Eng­land full-back was fum­ing at his re­jec­tion in last week’s TRP, he said Brown was free to get in touch.

“I can un­der­stand the dis­ap­point­ment and frus­tra­tion – he’s wel­come to give me a call if he feels hard done by,” the Lions coach said.

Brown’s quest for self­im­prove­ment has been un­re­lent­ing, in­clud­ing self-funded train­ing ses­sions with sprint coach Mar­got Wells to in­crease his pace and power. It has paid div­i­dends, with his foot­work and sinewy strength on the coun­ter­at­tack or go­ing for the high ball fre­quently out­stand­ing, es­pe­cially in 2014 and 2015.

Brown’s con­tention that he has played “re­ally well from 2015 on­wards”, in­clud­ing since Ed­die Jones ar­rival as Eng­land coach, is also fair enough in most re­spects. How­ever, the one area of self-im­prove­ment where Brown has con­sis­tently fallen short of Test qual­ity is in his at­tack­ing dis­tri­bu­tion – and this sea­son it ap­peared to have re­gressed rather than im­proved.

Chances will need to be taken against New Zealand if the Lions are to stay in the hunt to win the se­ries. Brown’s reg­u­lar fail­ure to pass, or link, with sup­port run­ners who are bet­ter placed dur­ing the Six Na­tions, and the au­tumn, led to crit­i­cism that he was too blink­ered – and it cost him.

Brown may yet get a call from the Lions, but one of the things this stu­dent of self-help should do dur­ing the Ar­gentina tour is work hard on the qual­ity pass­ing and tim­ing that will set his team-mates free.

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