By Neale Harvey
Forgotten England tight-head Kieran Brookes has revealed the extent to which he has been sweating away the pounds in a bid to achieve his twin-targets of winning trophies with new club Wasps and rekindling his international ambitions.
Sixteen-cap Brookes, 27, has dropped off the Red Rose radar since flourishing in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup, featuring just once under Aussie boss Eddie Jones as a replacement for Dan Cole during the 2016 Six Nations against Wales.
A mixture of injury, loss of form and Northampton’s recent struggles contributed to Brookes’ decline. However, he aims to challenge England regulars Cole, Kyle Sinckler and Harry Williams for their World Cup places.
Brookes has shed just short of a stone, telling The Rugby Paper: “I started at Wasps three weeks ago and since the end of last season I’ve lost six kilos (13lbs 3oz).
“I was over 130kgs (20st 5lbs) last season and I’m 125kgs now (19st 7lbs), so I’m already back to where I was when I was playing my best rugby.
“I feel like I did in 2015 when I first signed for Saints. I’d just come off the back of a good World Cup pre-season and that’s my optimum weight.
“Through Saints’ needs, scrummaging-wise I did need to get a bit heavier, but with the way Wasps want to play, with the emphasis being more on attack, it means being a bit lighter and carrying the ball more, which will suit me.”
Whilst the last World Cup did not end well for England, Brookes added: “I was very happy with my own form in 2015. The year before I’d toured New Zealand and thought I did alright, but it really faded for me after that.
“I picked up a cartilage tear in my left knee around Christmas time in 2015, which only meant six weeks out but basically shut off all my running.
“I came back during the Six Nations and went on the Saxons tour of South Africa, but it was downhill from there and last season was disappointing.
“My form was off to begin with and then just as I felt it was coming back, I broke my thumb in November and that put me out again. Niggling injuries that have let me down at the wrong times.”
Brookes is desperate to make an impact at Wasps – his fourth top-flight club after spells at Newcastle, Leicester and Northampton – and believes rugby director, and former Wales and Lions prop, Dai Young, can bring out his best.
“As a team Northampton weren’t performing well and as a pack it went a bit downhill. But coming to Wasps I’m hoping to live up to my billing 100 per cent and working with Dai was one of the main attractions of signing,” Brookes said.
“He puts a big emphasis on scrummaging and the props that are already here, experienced guys like Jake Cooper-Woolley, Matt Mullan, Simon McIntyre and some younger lads like Tom West and Will Stuart, are all working hard to really improve.
“Another attraction is working with Andy Titterrell, who helped coach the Saxons in South Africa in 2016. We got on well there and he’s a great coach, so the signs are already very promising and there’s one goal here, which is winning silverware.”
Brookes hopes a by-product of a trophy-chasing season will be a Test recall. He added: “Club comes first and I’ve got to play well here, but if I can produce the form I did before and do get another call-up, then it’s happy days.
“There’s so much depth in English rugby and we’ve got five or six tight-heads pushing, but if you put in a run of good games and perform in Europe as well, you can put yourself in the mix quickly and selection can come from nowhere.”
By Neale Harvey