Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Mike Brown: England must make their presence felt in key Wales World Cup tussle

Mike Brown has recalled his act of defiance at the Millennium Stadium in February as England steel themselves for an epic showdown against Wales that has been billed as the biggest in the rivals' long history.

Never will the stakes have been higher between the old foes when Twickenham hosts their 127th encounter on Saturday, with victory offering sight out of a fiercely competitive World Cup pool that also includes Australia.

England will be emboldened by their victory in Cardiff in the opening match of this year's Six Nations which saw them atone for the nadir of Stuart Lancaster's reign in 2013 when a Grand Slam was denied by a humbling 30-3 rout.

Apart from the result, the evening was memorable for the pre-match tunnel stand-off that saw Brown angrily intervene when Chris Robshaw was being ordered by officials to lead his team on to the pitch while Wales remained in the changing room.

"At the time it was a case of standing up for my captain as I was next in line in that tunnel. It was a bit embarrassing!" Brown said.

"Chris was coming under heat from the people in the tunnel trying to move him along so I was backing him up, being the gobby so-and-so that I am, and he was being more calm and collected.

"We need to stamp our authority on the game right from the start against Wales and we'll build from there."

England's team selection has ratcheted up the stakes in a match that acts as the first of two games over successive weekends that Lancaster accepts will define his reign as head coach.

Owen Farrell has displaced George Ford at fly-half and Sam Burgess must duel with Wales battering ram Jamie Roberts despite having played only 112 minutes of international rugby union.

Around 20,000 Welsh fans are expected at Twickenham to witness a game the World Cup hosts enter as 1/3 bookmakers' favourites, and full-back Brown knows what lies in wait.

"The England-Wales rivalry was always massive growing up from the age of five when I used to watch matches with my old man," Brown said.

"They're massive occasions and this one has the added spice of being a World Cup game.

"The 2013 loss is still deep inside me. That was a tough day at the office and is a massive driving force for the team.

"We have been through a couple of bad ones and that was definitely one of them. Wales definitely seem to enjoy beating us, it's intense.

"It's a rivalry that's been going on for a number of years - we've all grown up watching it. Wales love their rugby and they love beating England so it makes for a great occasion.

"We can't wait to get out there, it's going to be one hell of an occasion and we're lucky to be part of it.

"England seem to have a lot of grudge matches or rivalries - it's hard to put one above the rest, but I know this will be an incredible occasion and a great game.

"It's a tough pool to start with so to have Wales is a great day and a great game. The physicality and intensity suits me down to the ground, I can't wait to get out there."

Robshaw will overtake England's World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson when he skipper the Red Rose for a 40th time, placing him second outright behind Will Carling who was at the helm for 59 internationals.

Robshaw's leadership has been questioned at times since succeeding Lewis Moody in 2012, but Harlequins team-mate Brown believes he is unfairly maligned.

"Chris is a world-class player. He doesn't need to say a lot, we just try and follow his example," Brown said.

"I've grown up with him, so for me it is great to see what he has achieved and it is great for me to be alongside him whilst he is achieving it."


From Belfast Telegraph