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Guru Jonny Wilkinson put me back on track for Slam glory says Mike Brown

Mike BrownMike Brown intends to keep working with Jonny Wilkinson after revealing how England’s 2003 World Cup hero helped ignite his Six Nations campaign.

Brown, who became England’s most capped full-back during the tournament, admits he felt down in the dumps after indifferent displays against Scotland and Italy.

However, wise words from former Newcastle and Toulon fly-half Wilkinson enabled him to pick up his game and finish the Six Nations in style.

Grand Slam winner Brown, 30, told The Rugby Paper: “Jonny joined us for a few backs sessions, filling in during our defence work – and blooming heck, he’s still got it!

“He was brilliant to have around to give us all little tips and feedback.

“I’ve had some one-on-one work with him on my kicking and we’ve changed my style up a little bit. He also gave me some really good advice because the start of the Six Nations was difficult.

“Being a full-back, a big part of my game is attack and that always takes a bit longer to click into place when a new set of coaches take over.

“I was a bit quiet at the start of the tournament, which got me down, so it was great to be able to chat to Jonny and he gave me brilliant lifestyle advice. I’m hoping to continue working with him, even at my club, and he’s great to be around.

“Some of his advice is quite personal so I won’t repeat it, but he was great to talk to and you can see that in how good he is with his punditry.

“To have that sort of insight available in person, and specific to myself, really helped me during the Six Nations and I’ll keep tapping into it. Jonny’s got other work with Toulon but I’ll keep in touch whenever I get the opportunity.”

With 48 caps to his name, 37 of them at full-back, Brown superseded Matt Perry’s long-standing record of 35 appearances in the No.15 shirt when he started what transpired to be the Six Nations clinching victory over Wales.

The Grand Slam that followed against France ended four years of hurt – a feat Brown now reflects upon with immense pride.

He said: “It was amazing to finally do it. Leading up to that last game we were all just fed up of coming second, so to win all five games left nobody in any doubt that we were the best team in the competition.

“There’d only been 13 Grand Slams in the entire history of the tournament so it shows how hard it is, especially as everybody wants to beat England.

“It’s meant so much. Having grown up watching images of Rory Underwood and Jonny Wilkinson celebrating Grand Slams, we now have our own images and history and it’s great to add another one to the English collection.

“Now we need to use that as a stepping stone and move forward when whoever’s selected meets up for that Australia tour in June.”

On his own personal milestone of becoming England’s most capped fullback, Brown adds: “We’re not just here to collect caps, you want to play well, but it was amazing to overtake the highest number of caps for a No.15.

“I didn’t realise it until after the game but it’s a great achievement that I’ll probably reflect on more when I finish my career, especially as I was out of the set-up for such a long time between 2008 and the start of 2012.

“There were times when I wasn’t sure I’d get a chance, so to get to 50 caps would be amazing and I’ll work even harder to try and do that.”

Brown has made the fullback jersey his own but takes nothing for granted in the face of continued pressure from Alex Goode, Ben Foden and Chris Pennell.

“The challengers are always there but the biggest challenge is within myself,” said Brown.

“I’m always trying to push myself to be better and I’m never happy with my performances.

“I’m not concentrating on other people and what they’re doing, it’s all about myself trying to keep improving, and working with people like Eddie Jones and Jonny gives me that opportunity.

“I’m desperate to achieve and I know there’s so much more I can do.”

With Harlequins’ challenge for a play-off place appearing to have petered out, their best chance of silverware now lies in Europe.

Brown conceded: “The league’s not looking great for us and we’ve let ourselves down.

“The Challenge Cup is still a great opportunity for silverware, though, which is what the club wants badly. We’re desperate to achieve that and it starts with a quarter-final against London Irish at the Stoop next Saturday.

“They’ll be underdogs but will be keen to turn us over on our own patch, so we’re prepared for another huge battle.”

NEALE HARVEY

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