KELLY Brown has overcome a few hurdles in his life, but the new Scotland captain acknowledged that he had not faced any as daunting on the rugby pitch as that which he is preparing for tomorrow.
It may play into the hands of those who believe Scots are being defeatist when they acknowledge the strengths of New Zealand, the world’s No 1 rugby team, but for Brown it is merely about being realistic. But he insisted that should not be taken to mean that he believes his side are lambs to the slaughter.
Having been deprived of the honour of skippering his country by injury at the start of the year, Brown has thought deeply about the kind of lead he can bring to the Scotland team on what will be his 50th Test appearance, and how he can follow in the footsteps of such legendary back rows as Douglas Elliot, Pringle Fisher, Peter Brown, Rob Wainwright and Jason White who have all captained Scotland against the All Blacks. He cites White as the clearest example he has of an inspirational skipper, alongside his Saracens team-mates Steve Borthwick and John Smit, the former England and South Africa captains respectively.
Asked whether he was likely to be more emotional or technical when he brings the team together inside the dressing room ahead of kick-off tomorrow, he said: “I think it’s about finding a balance. Over the last week at times I’ve thought about it and thought about my family and friends, but I think that if I do that too much it could affect my performance. So it’s about a balance. When I run out on the pitch I’m going to be focusing on my role and what I and the team have got to do to put in a successful performance.
“I’ve spoken a little bit more in team meetings and such like, but my vision is that we lead as a team and I’ve been ably supported by other leaders in the squad; the last two weeks have gone really well.
“I like to think that I’m an upbeat person and hope that that can rub off when you’re out on the pitch. A team has a certain energy and that can be influenced by several factors, and I just want to make sure that everyone is upbeat and feeling good and the overall feel of the team is positive.
“I’ve taken a little off all the captains that I’ve been under. I’ve been fortunate to be led by four or five guys in the Scotland squad that I’ve enjoyed being led by, guys like Jason White, who was, for me, a really inspirational captain, and also at my club there are two ex-international captains there as well, so I’ve been fortunate to be led by great leaders. But I don’t think there’s one certain thing [they do]. With John it’s just how he speaks and conducts himself. He was captain for maybe six or seven years in a country that’s absolutely mad about rugby, so I’ve learnt a lot about him, and how to deal with the pressures that come from being an international captain.”
Brown has worked hard with the McGuire Programme to overcome a debilitating stutter he has had since childhood and it is a sign of the 30-year-old’s confidence, maturity and determination that he fronted up to media interviews with aplomb this week. But he admits that leading a team on the pitch still comes more naturally and nothing is as motivating as the prospect of beating the All Blacks in his first Test as captain.