England full-back Mike Brown says he will be as committed as ever today when he retakes the field for England, just weeks after suffering a traumatic concussion.
Head injuries are a major talking point in rugby union, with the injury Brown suffered in an accidental collision with Italy’s Andrea Masi one of an alarming number of flash points.
Brown was knocked unconscious in the collision before enduring two setbacks while observing return-to-play protocols which forced him to miss the defeat in Ireland.
Now fully fit and restored to the starting XV for today’s visit of Scotland – when England look to revive their Six Nations title bid – Brown’s mind inevitably turns to the possible lingering after affects arising from an incident which saw him receive lengthy medical treatment before being withdrawn on a motorised cart.
When asked if he would be wary when challenging for the next 50-50 ball, Brown said: “I don’t think so.
“It hasn’t been like that in training so far, although obviously that is a bit different to being in a game.
“The way I play, I can’t afford to do that because it would take so much away from my game.
“I think I’m 100 per cent committed every time I’m going for a ball.
“Hopefully, I will just switch into automatic mode and won’t think too much of it. We’ll see when I get out there.”
Concussions had been on the agenda before England’s game with Italy, after Wales wing George North was allowed to play on the week before despite having been knocked out.
But Brown’s case reflected far better on a sport facing up to its most pressing issue.
Once medics arrived, the 29-year-old was rolled on to a spinal board, regaining consciousness in the changing room before sheepishly accepting an ovation from the Twickenham crowd when he emerged to watch the second half from the stands.
“I’ve seen a couple of clips of the incident,” said Brown.
“I’ve seen a couple of pictures of the hit which was nice as well – great facials and then asleep on the floor. It happens in rugby. It’s a collision sport. I was just thinking: ‘why didn’t I get my head in the right position or get there quicker so I didn’t have to make the tackle?’ It’s just annoying.
“I only managed 12 minutes of the game which is even more frustrating because I didn’t do anything in the game to be happy about. I got knocked out and that was it.
“I was a bit embarrassed by the applause when I came out. I only lasted 12 minutes and I didn’t do much in those 12 minutes to warrant that applause. I just got knocked out. I was just trying to sneak out quietly and get behind the subs.”
Despite having two weeks to prepare for their next game against Ireland – a showdown that ended England’s grand slam hopes – Brown put his desperation to play to one side to disclose the mild symptoms that prevented his involvement.
He admits that until recently he would have considered keeping the mild headache he was feeling private in his eagerness to win another cap.
“Pulling out is one of the worst things I’ve ever had to go through in my whole life,” he said.
A player dubbed ‘Mr Angry’ by team-mate Luther Burrell and one with a “winner’s mentality” according to head coach Stuart Lancaster, Brown found watching England unravel at Lansdowne Road from the comfort of his living room an ordeal.
“I was fuming. I wasn’t happy at all. Unfortunately, my fiancee had to go through it with me, poor lady,” he said.
“It wasn’t something I want to be doing too regularly, sat in my lounge, on the edge of my sofa, screaming at the TV.
“I think I am more nervous watching it than I usually am playing. I had to have a quiet moment to myself at half-time. It wasn’t a good day.”
Brown returns to an England team eager to atone for their Dublin setback against a Scotland side looking for their first win at Twickenham in 32 years and their first victory of this season’s championship.
England backs coach Andy Farrell said: “What happened against Ireland is a massive factor for this game.
“If you put that alongside the fact we are still in with a shout of winning the competition, then those two things together are a pretty powerful thing leading up to this game.
“Hopefully, we’ll put in a performance that matters.
“You learn a lot from a loss. Lads who haven’t been in that type of position before will have learnt a lot.
“Did we let ourselves down against Ireland?
“We didn’t play our best, but Ireland, like most good sides, have a way of making an impact on the game and they did that very successfully.
“There is a determination to put a performance in.”
If you are involved in rugby find out more about concussion by completing the RFU’s new online education course www.englandrugby.com/headcase