Ahead of the game against France at the weekend, England and Harlequins winger Mike Brown, 27, gave me his views on the game, the possibilities of an England Grand Slam, his chances of Lions selection and missing Quins tilt for the title.
You won a Grand Slam with the England Under 21's in 2006, how do you rate your chances of repeating that feat with the senior side this year?
"We're just focusing on each game as it comes really. We don't want to say what our chances are like, we just want to focus on the game coming up and that's France. It's a massive test, we've had two good wins recently so we need to build on that against a tough French team and we're looking forward to it."
You mentioned the French, who've you've got on Saturday at Twickenham, do you see the French as a team in crisis or a wounded animal that could bounce back and bite you?
"Exactly, a wounded animal. Look what they did in the autumn, they beat really tough teams. They beat Australia and Australia then beat us. We know they're a team who haven't played particularly well but they're a brilliant team and when they want to turn it on they can. They could have won a World Cup final not so long ago as well, so we know it's going to be a tough game but it's one we're massively looking forward to."
Speaking of tough games, after that win in Dublin there must be a growing belief in the capabilities of the current squad to grind out a result when needed?
"Yeah, definitely. We've been building confidence and things like that over our last few games. It started with New Zealand, we got a lot of confidence from that, beating such a quality team and then we started this competition so well. That's come from hard work put in on the training field and then transferring that into the game. We know we've still got a lot more to work on and a lot more to keep putting on the pitch so we'll try and do that. That will continue this weekend with France"
You currently lead the Six Nations player charts for line breaks and are second in the list of metres gained in the Six Nations Championship, how much of that attacking style is down to your individual way of playing and how much is down to team tactics?
"I think it's just the player I am. I think it's just one of my strengths. That's why I enjoy playing in the back three. I play in a team at Quins that allows a quick game and I try to bring my game into the England team too. We're trying to play a really expansive game of rugby too. Unfortunately against Ireland we couldn't really do that because of the conditions but yeah...I just enjoy running with the ball and when I get that opportunity I try and do that."
Do you think playing on the wing give you an element of freedom from some of the responsibilities of full-back?
"No I think playing anywhere in the back three gives you that element of freedom. I think, in the modern game, it's very transferrable... the skills and things like that. So that's how I've been trying to play on the wing, pretty much the same as playing at full-back. Roam around and try and see where I can get involved. A bit like Ashy (Chris Ashton) on the other wing, we just roam around and try and get involved anywhere on the pitch and see where we can affect the game."
Do you feel the pressure of selection from other out-and-out wingers?
"Not really, I'm just trying to focus on what I've been doing in the squad and what's got me into the squad and ultimately what's got me into the starting fifteen. I've just been trying to push all the back three players hard in training. We all push each other, which is good. There's very much a competition in all positions. Everyone knows they've got to be training well and playing well or else someone else will come in and take that position. So whichever position I've picked in in I've just tried to work hard on my own game. Put my game on the pitch and everything else will take care of itself."
Speaking of selection, the Lions question will come up a lot this year. How positive are you about your chances of touring?
"To be honest I'm just trying to focus on England and everything else will take care of itself, like I said before. If I'm playing well with England and with Harlequins then I'm putting myself in the shop window. I'm just really focusing on improving myself as a player, on the wing and at full-back, and I'm learning so much as a player being part of this squad. I'm really enjoying my time with these coaches and these players. So I'll just keep my head down and keep working hard and make sure I'm doing my job the best I can for England."
You mentioned your club Harlequins there, they won at the weekend to put them back on top of Aviva Premiership again, is there a part of you that's missing being part of that push for the title whilst you're with England?
"I was at the game against Leicester at the weekend and you go there as a player and you don't really feel comfortable just sitting down watching, you want to be involved of course. But then then you have to be selfish and think "I'm where I want to be with England and I want to be playing for England". So, you have to take those hits and take it on the chin that you're not going to be involved because you want to be playing for England. It's hard to watch but they don't seem to be missing me, so that's fine! I'll take that because I'm where I want to be with England and I'm enjoying it."
With England going for a Grand Slam, Quins going for silverware and selection for a Lions tour all on the cards how do you cope with the pressure to deliver week-week-out for club and country?
"I'm quite an experienced player, I've been around for a while now and I don't really feel any pressure. I'm focused on getting better as a player, on and off the field, I try to focus on my skills and at the weekend just focusing on my role within the team and playing to the best of my abilities. Doing what I need to do to have a good game for whichever team I'm playing for and in whatever position."
Mike Brown is representing the England team. For more behind the scenes footage from inside the England camp, including Mike's fellow Harlequin Joe Marler analysing how to beat the French, you can watch the latest episode of O2 Inside Line at: www.O2InsideLine.com
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