Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Brown eager to keep England jersey

Harlequins' Mike Brown is keen to assert his England claim.

Mike Brown is hoping to enhance his claim to continue as England's full-back this autumn when Harlequins clash with Aviva Premiership pace-setters Saracens at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.

Having shaded one rival for the Test number 15 jersey in Northampton's Ben Foden amid atrocious conditions two weeks ago, Brown faces another when Alex Goode plays the second match of his comeback from shoulder surgery.

England's management highlighted the playmaking option offered by Goode as the reason for his selection last November and throughout the RBS 6 Nations, with Brown playing in unknown territory on the wing.

But when the Saracen was forced out of the summer tour to Argentina, Brown shone at full-back and has excelled since.

"Definitely I'd like a run at 15 for England, especially in the autumn internationals. I want to show what I can do there," he said.

"Playing on the wing was good for my development. It gave me a lot of confidence over what I can do on the world stage - and that was out of position.

"I'm looking forward to getting back with England but selection isn't based on one game, it's about consistency and I feel like I've been consistent over the last few years."

With Billy Twelvetrees England's likely choice at inside centre - autumn-ending injuries to Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi have forced a rethink in midfield - the need for a playmaker at full-back is less pressing.

Last season Brown was overlooked because of Goode's ability to direct play at first receiver, but he insists it is a role he fulfils for Harlequins.

"First and foremost a full-back needs to be a runner, coming from deep just like Ben Foden does really well for Northampton," Brown said.

"But you must also have all-round skill these days and I've shown for Quins that these days I can step up at first receiver if I need to.

"I can attack from anywhere - from deep, the wider channels, at first receiver, sniping around the rucks from nine or picking and going, which you don't see too many full-backs doing.

"I believe my physical game really stands out. I'm ticking along nicely, working hard on bits of my game and feel like I'm getting better.

"I still work hard on my speed because that's a vital part of being a full-back.

"My kicking has always been a strength, but I've been working on it with (England assistant coach) Mike Catt and that's shown in the last few games in terms of game management."

Brown has a passionate champion in Quins director of rugby Conor O'Shea, who bristles at doubts over his ability to pull the strings.

"Mike's the man in possession and was outstanding against Argentina. He was man of the match for us against Worcester last weekend and does everything a full-back should do," O'Shea said.

"He hits the right lines, is aware of the people around him, has a massive kicking game and is so solid under the high ball it's frightening.

"Mike brings so many strengths. Can he playmake? Well watch him do that in our team - and we play more than any other team with the ball in hand."

Quins will be hoping to become the first side to defeat Saracens this season with three successive bonus-point victories placing the north London club top of the Premiership.

The third of those came against Bath last Sunday and the west country outfit will be looking to atone for their 31-17 loss at Allianz Park when they host London Irish.

Only two teams have yet to win after three outings this season and they meet at Adams Park on Saturday when Wasps clash with Worcester.

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