• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Kelly Brown raring to go after weathering a string of setbacks

Kelly Brown has a nice line in self-deprecating wit, and on the eve of his 32nd birthday - the mark he reaches today - he made a sly reference to Yaya Toure's recent show of petulance.

Kelly Brown has taken tough times and dealt with them without complainingPhotograph:  Getty
Kelly Brown has taken tough times and dealt with them without complainingPhotograph: Getty

"Oh yeah," said the Scotland forward. "If I don't get a majorly impressive present I'll be raging."

The suggestion is all the funnier for the fact that no player on earth is less likely to throw his toys out of the pram than Brown. Stalwart, dignified and decent to the core, he takes the punches life throws at him on his substantial chin, and moves on without a pause to complain.

Those qualities have made him a favourite of a succession of coaches, and they may never have been more useful than in the past few weeks and months. Having started the Six Nations, against Ireland, as Scotland captain, Brown was unceremoniously dumped from the squad ahead of the next game, against England, but he accepted the decision of then coach Scott Johnson with more grace and stoicism than it deserved.

Lkewise his reaction to the past two weeks, as Saracens, on the cusp of a double triumph that would have cemented their claim to be the premier European club of the age, somehow managed to lose the Heineken Cup final to Toulon and the Aviva Premiership final against Northampton. They left, as Anne Robinson would say, with nothing.

Not the best preparation, then, for an international tour, but little more than 12 hours after collecting his runners-up medal at Twickenham, Brown was boarding a flight at Heathrow to meet up with his Scotland team-mates in Houston, Texas. Sensibly, he was rested for last night's clash with the USA, but the signs are that he will be back in action, and winning his 64th cap, against Canada in Toronto next weekend.

He says he is "raring to go" which shows improbable fortitude, as much as a superhuman energy level, after the adversities of the past few months. But Brown, whose refusal to be a slave to the speech impediment he has carried through life says a lot about his character, is firmly of the view that the experiences that test you are the ones that also strengthen you.

"It has been interesting," he said of his year to date. "But I like to think I've learned a lot as a player and a person. It's not just rugby lessons, it's life lessons. When you are given challenges and setbacks, it is how you respond to them that matters. I feel that, on the whole, I've responded well."

It seems perverse to ask whether being dumped from the Scotland squad is a more or less enjoyable experience than losing a European final, but Brown doesn't flinch.

"To be honest, I've not really thought about it," he replied. "I don't think one is any worse than the other. Everyone has challenges in rugby and life in general, so I just had a couple more this year.

"On a personal level, you've got to control the factors that are under your control and not worry about everything else. I've always thought that, but it has been reinforced that there are only certain things that I can control.

"It is about what I do and how I train. Selection decisions are up to someone else so there's no point in worrying about them."

Brown's approach is likely to find favour with new coach Vern Cotter, and the two men already appear to have established a mutual admiration society.

"He has been good," said the flanker of the coach. "He is very intense and very honest. He doesn't pull any punches. He says exactly what he thinks and exactly what he feels needs to be said.

"Players like it if the coach is honest. But I thought Johnno [Johnson] was honest as well, and Andy [Robinson] before him. It's how they put across messages that is slightly different. I've only been working with Vern for under a week, but it has been good and I've enjoyed it."

At Clermont Auvergne, Cotter had no problem picking a pack who all had a few miles on the clock, so Brown should have no concerns that his advancing years will be held against him for a good while yet. In any case, the relentless passage of time is one of those things that is very firmly in the category of things he cannot control, so he is certainly not going to fret about it.

Of more pressing concern is Saturday's clash in Toronto.

Scotland were beaten the last time they played a Test in Canada - losing 26-23 in Vancouver in 2002 - and Brown is well aware that the opposition, currently 15th in the world rankings, cannot be taken lightly.

"I've looked at them a little bit this week," he said. "They have some really good athletes and they seem like a proud side. They have a lot of tough men, and Jamie Cudmore [who played under Cotter at Clermont Auvergne] is a good example. You will struggle to find a tougher man playing rugby.

"So it will be a team of guys like him. They will be very intense and I'm sure they will see us as a chance to really take on a Six Nations side. It's going to be a big ask for us."

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

238893