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Brown reaps benefit of keeping cool

Conor O'Shea walked into Harlequins' training base for the first time as rugby director in 2010 and made a beeline straight for Mike Brown.

The new Quins boss' first priority was to warn the talented full-back not to let anger ruin his career.

Fast-forward four years and Harlequins' game-breaker and last line of defence holds almost every Northern Hemisphere accolade around.

The RBS 6 Nations player of the year was also named England's man of the series in the autumn internationals, and has landed the Aviva Premiership player of the season award to boot.

In less than 12 months the 28-year-old has catapulted from battling to retain a place on England's wing to Europe's premier number 15.

Harlequins rugby director O'Shea believes it is Brown's increasing ability to keep his tempers in check that have left him indispensible in England's Rugby World Cup 2015 plans.

"I said to him when I came here, one of the things I felt, with maturity and understanding, his game was always going to improve because his game didn't rely on out and out pace," said former Ireland full-back O'Shea.

"He did the basics right, he has a massive boot, he's a great last-line defender and unbelievable under the high ball.

"If you add things on top of that, I'll take it: understanding your lines, understanding when to go and when not to go.

"You see him kicking at the right time now rather than taking on the world every time he gets the ball.

"He's so competitive that he now understands how to control the emotion.

"I would have thought that a couple of years ago if he made a mistake in a game it might have consumed him.

"But as he's got older and more mature he's in control of that emotion and drive: he knows how to go to the edge, but not slip over it."

Harlequins sneaked into the Premiership play-offs with 19-16 victory at The Stoop over Bath last weekend.

The reward for edging out the West Country men is a daunting trip to runaway regular-season champions Saracens on Saturday.

Former England number eight Nick Easter will set a new professional-era appearance record for Quins, surpassing Ceri Jones' 232 club turns.

England's renaissance full-back Brown will line up for the visitors desperate to lead O'Shea's men to the showpiece Twickenham final on May 31.

Former London Irish star O'Shea said Brown will only continue to improve now that he has mastered the knack of shrugging off the niggling errors that bedevil every top-level competitor.

"He knows you're going to make mistakes and the person everyone sees make that mistake because you're out on your own like the goalkeeper in soccer," said O'Shea.

"If mentally you can't recover from that mistake you are in trouble, but now Mike is in control of all that and it won't affect his next job.

"Maybe three years ago he was trying to impress so hard so that some of that would come back and he would let his game spiral a little bit - but that won't happen now."

Saracens ended the regular season with a record points tally and are still gunning for a European and domestic double.

O'Shea admits the hosts are clear favourites, but rejected any notion of Harlequins allowing Saracens to have matters their own way in north London this weekend.

"If anyone thinks we're going there this weekend to have our tummies tickled, they've got another thing coming for them," he said.

"It's one week before the biggest game in their history and they'll face a team very intense and intent on doing their job."


From Belfast Telegraph