Twickenham (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Eddie Jones compared Mike Brown to England football goalkeeping great Peter Shilton as he came to the defence of his fullback after a gruelling Six Nations win over Wales.
Brown was superb under the high ball at a rainswept Twickenham during champions England’s 12-6 victory on Saturday and he also made 116 metres with ball in hand — more than any other player in the match.
It was a typically sound display by Brown, who has often been compared unfavourably to Saracens fullback Alex Goode over a perceived lack of attacking flair while, more recently, there have been calls for wings Anthony Watson and the now injured Elliot Daly to have a run in England’s No 15 shirt.
But a hard-fought contest in adverse weather conditions was the perfect setting for Harlequins fullback Brown and he produced a man-of-the-match display to further vindicate Jones’s longstanding faith in his ability.
England’s Australian boss was angry at what he saw as unfair criticism of Brown, saying to a radio interviewer after full-time on Saturday: “You guys (the media) tell me Mike Brown can’t play Test rugby… you guys are unbelievable!
“You’re always criticising him, now he has a good game you’re all on the bandwagon. You guys are better selectors than we are, that’s what you think you are.”
The Australian returned to his theme in a subsequent press conference, telling reporters: “You are the guys who don’t rate him, you are the the guys who are always selecting someone else.”
Jones, who has now won 24 of his 25 Tests as England coach, later placed Brown in distinguished sporting company with a comparison to Shilton, England’s most-capped footballer, whose 125 international appearances spanned 20 years from 1970-1990.
– ‘Courage’ –
“It would definitely be Mike Brown who is my man of the match,” Jones told BBC Radio Five’s Sportsweek programme on Sunday.
“He’s been the most criticised player in English rugby and again he’s showed why we have been winning games. He’s like the Peter Shilton of rugby fullbacks.
“He’s done that in 24 Tests for us. He’s our fullback, he carries the high ball, he plays with courage and he plays the way that England want to play.”
Jonny May’s two early tries against Wales — the wing’s first scores in the Six Nations — ultimately proved decisive, although Wales felt hard done by when Gareth Anscombe was denied a try by the television match official.
Jones was especially impressed by the speed May showed to get on the end of Owen Farrell’s excellent cross-field kick for an opening try that came with the match just three minutes old.
“I thought he was absolutely brilliant, ran well, took his opportunities and showed how important pace is,” Jones said. “No one else in the team would have scored that first try, apart from Jonny.”
Wales arrived at Twickenham on the back of a 34-7 thrashing of Scotland and Jones added: “We wanted to start well because they came rolling down the M4 (motorway), very cocky and it was important that we start the game well and took a bit of the wind out of their sails, which we did and that got us the win.”
Saturday’s success took England, who launched their title defence with a 46-15 rout of Italy in Rome, one step nearer to becoming the first side to win three successive outright Six Nations titles.
They continue their Championship campaign away to Scotland on February 24 but Jones said: “We are absolutely pleased with the win against Wales and we’ll worry about what we’ve got to work on later.”