Combative Brown has been a leading light in England’s rise to number two in the world, winning two Six Nations titles, a Grand Slam and contributing to a 3-0 series victory over Australia after starting 17 of 18 matches under Red Rose boss Eddie Jones.
Brown’s impressive winning record cut no ice with Gatland, however, who opted for the tried and trusted in Leigh Halfpenny and Stuart Hogg while handing a shock call-up to versatile Kiwi Jared Payne, whose single Six Nations appearance for Ireland against England tipped the balance and condemned Brown to a trip to South America.
Brown pulled no punches, telling The Rugby Paper: “I didn’t take it well. I was really gutted. I feel I’ve played really well from 2015 onwards so it was really disappointing not to get the call, but life goes on and you can’t let one man’s decision define you.
“It’s really disappointing for guys like myself, James Haskell and Dylan Hartley because we probably won’t get another opportunity. I’ve had no feedback about being on standby either, which is also disappointing, so I’m not going to keep up false hopes. Instead, I’ll reset my goals and concentrate fully on England and the excitement of going on a tough Argentina tour with a lot of us more experienced guys mixed with some really young players like Joe Cokanasiga, Nick Isiekwe and Jack Maunder.
“For guys like myself, Haskell and Dylan, we’ve got a big job to keep the momentum of England rugby going by bringing these young guys on board and showing them through our actions and words what it really means to play for England.”
Brown added: “We want to be number one and the only way to achieve that is to keep winning, which we’ll be aiming to do in Argentina.”
England’s squad includes 15 novices, meaning the leadership qualities of Brown – named as a vice-captain along with George Ford and Harlequins teammate Danny Care – will be tested.
Brown added: “It will be interesting to see how the new players get on. That’s where guys like me come in, not just in making it easier for them to adapt but by testing them and showing how hard you have to work to get that Red Rose jersey and then keep it.”
While Brown has been England’s full-back since 2013, there is a growing call for Bath’s Anthony Watson to be handed a run.
Brown will not relinquish the shirt readily, though, saying: “Eddie obviously likes what I do for the team because he’s picked me so many times.
“He gives me things to work on, so it doesn’t matter who else is around, I’ll maintain my standards and keep improving.”
Meanwhile, Brown is keen to quash talk of a move away from Harlequins.
Leicester and Exeter have been mooted as destinations, but he said: “I’m in contract with Quins next season and my wife and I enjoy where we’re living. I enjoy it at Quins and I’m confident we can go forward.
“We’ve shown at home to Wasps and Saracens that we can be a good side, but we’ve got to do it away from home as well. That motivation has to come from within and we need to be a lot stronger.”
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