Kelly Brown turns 34 this summer, but the former Scotland captain’s desire to play on the big stage has not diminished one bit with age – and he cannot wait for Saracens’ European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final with Northampton Saints on Saturday.
Since the back-row joined the English giants in 2010 they have done pretty well in Europe’s top competition and Brown started for them back in 2014 when they reached the final only to lose 23-6 to Toulon in Cardiff.
Nearly two years on and Brown is still a key man in the Saracens squad and they will head into the home last-eight tie against their countrymen on a high after a polished 30-10 win in the Aviva Premiership over Bath last Friday.
Brown came on for the last 24 minutes of that match, replacing Michael Rhodes, and looking ahead to the next challenge he said: “When you play down south every match is a big one because the Premiership is very competitive and everyone can beat one another if you are not on your game.
“However, European competition is always exciting. When you come through the pool stages the knockout matches can seem quite far away, but as soon as all of the guys who were on Six Nations duties returned a couple of weeks ago we have been talking about the quarter-final quite a lot.
“We played Northampton during the Six Nations period in the league and they beat us, but now both sides are pretty much back to full strength and it is a one off game so it should be a cracking contest.
“The English clubs have done very well in Europe this year with five in the quarter-finals and having played in semis and finals before we at Saracens aspire to get back to that level.
“We know it will not be easy, but there is a great buzz amongst the group at the moment and some of the guys are flying in terms of form.”
Amongst the players in form for Sarries that Brown pinpoints are Scotland’s own Duncan Taylor and the young England second-row pairing of Maro Itoje and George Kruis.
“These guys are all at the peak of their powers right now and the way that they train, work hard and want to learn is a joy for us older guys to see,” Brown, who earned 64 Scotland caps, said.
“In recent months a few people have asked me if I feel old or if I have to play differently and manage things differently than when I was in my mid-20s. And the answer, thankfully, is no. I don’t feel 33 and I still feel as fresh as I did when I was turning out for Glasgow a number of years ago.
“I think it is the atmosphere and the people at Sarries that keep me that way because we are always striving to get better.”
Although he has not been involved with Scotland since 2014, Brown still keeps a keen eye on how things are going with the national team and he believes the Six Nations has given them plenty to build on.
“The guys showed against Italy, and in particular against France, what they are capable of and for me personally it was great to see Duncan Taylor showing a wider audience what he can do,” Brown said.
“The guys at Saracens call him ‘Super Dunc’ because there isn’t much that he cannot do and it was nice to see him take his club form up to international level.”