KELLY BROWN, the Scotland captain who will lead the side against France at Murrayfield on Saturday, has admitted he was "humbled" by the support he received from fans after he was dropped from the national team last month.
But the Saracens flanker insisted that the thought of walking away from Test rugby had never entered his head.
Brown captained Scotland in the opening match of this year's RBS 6 Nations Championship, against Ireland, but was ditched from the squad for the next two games, against England and Italy. His omission fuelled rumours that the 31-year-old would retire from the international arena, a suggestion he dismissed at Murrayfield yesterday.
"To play for Scotland is something that I would always dream of as a child," said Brown. "To captain Scotland was almost more than that because I never really thought I could do it. I was never going to walk away. What I did was that I went away and I saw it as just one more challenge.
"It's great to be back. As I've said in the past, to play for Scotland, and certainly to captain Scotland, is something that I would never take for granted. Obviously, I am absolutely delighted to be back in the side."
While away from the Scotland fold, Brown played three times for his club. However, he also revealed that he had focused on those aspects of his game that had led national head coach Scott Johnson to drop him from the squad. "Naturally, I was very, very disappointed," Brown said. "But Scott has been very open and honest with me the whole way through. It was just up to me to go back to Saracens and to work hard on my game."
Brown kept up a regular dialogue with Greig Laidlaw, who captained Scotland in his absence. Having watched the Scots' victory over Italy on television, he praised the way the side had lifted itself after the criticism for their performance against England. "I thought the way the guys performed after all the pressure they were under was fantastic," he said.
"Some of the attacking play in Rome was superb and, if we can build on that against France, then we can cause some problems."