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Mike Brown: 'The best ten I played with'

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Friday Jul 5, 2024

Former England international Mike Brown has been discussing the much-anticipated test between New Zealand and England, focusing on the incredible talents that will don the Dunedin stage as the two sides come face to face on Saturday.

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First, we look at his former Harlequins teammate Marcus Smith, a player who has received several bumps in the international road over the past couple of years.

Now given the starting birth at ten for England, Brown delved into the challenges that Smith has faced since bursting onto the international stage: “You judge athletes by how they go through those low moments in their career, or little dips, or not getting selected, by how they come back fighting” he said.

“When previously he had a chance, he maybe didn’t quite take it which allowed Faz and Fordy to come back in. He’s gone away, he’s had to bide his time with  those guys, but he’s been brilliant recently for Quins and England, so he just needs to keep progressing like he is doing.”

Brown was keen to suggest that the little magician should continue to focus on “His running game, taking people on, putting people into gaps, and his little hitch kicks” which set him apart from others in his position.

The former Harlequins man also complemented Smith’s “natural leadership instincts” which could help England to manage the game and put his side in the right areas.

YORK, ENGLAND – MARCH 01: Marcus Smith (L) and Fin Smith sit out training on the bench during the England training session held at the LNER Community Stadium on March 01, 2024 in York, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
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Facing Smith on Saturday, will be the immensely talented Damian McKenzie, a former teammate of Brown’s during their two-match Barbarians stint, what challenges will the new All Blacks ten cause the visitors?

“Damian McKenzie is one of if not the best ten I played with. It’s a big statement considering I only had a couple of games with him, but I loved playing with him.

“He’s one of those guys who would put other people in the right position and into gaps but could also do it himself. He’s super tough, like he hits people hard despite being quite small – a bit like Marcus but actually hits even harder than Marcus. He just lobs his head into stuff, gets hit and gets back up.

“He’s a really nice guy off the field as well, quiet, but just super humble and a nice bloke. I really got on with him in my two weeks with the Barbarians and loved playing alongside him. I remember he set me up for a try with an outside-the-boot banana kick and he was just like ‘Browny go that side of the ruck’ and then just kind of gave me the wink and I knew what was coming. I got smashed in the process but scored against my old team so I was buzzing from that.

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“You go through your career and you end up playing with certain guys who you have a good connection with, that make your job easier, and he’s one of those. I’m a massive fan of him so I hope he takes the flyhalf opportunity with both hands because again he’s probably another guy that has had to bide his time to get that opportunity.

“Damian just needs someone to show him the confidence and have confidence in him, and connect with him in the right way which I know Scott Robinson will be able to do. That’s his thing, that’s what he’s great at doing so if you do that with someone like Damian McKenzie by just giving him the reigns and letting him express himself, he could be super dangerous.”

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND – JULY 05: David Havili, Jordie Barrett, Damian McKenzie, Will Jordan and Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks during a New Zealand All Blacks Captain’s Run at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 05, 2024 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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