Six Nations: Stats back Mike Brown as England’s top man

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FOR the second RBS Six Nations match running, Mike Brown has been rated by the Rugby Football Union’s own TryTracker analysis as the England player who had the most influence.

The statistical-based system rated Brown’s contribution in England’s 12-6 victory over Ireland as being above those of captain Chris Robshaw, the official man of the match, and Geoff Parling. Brown made ground with every carry, did not miss a tackle and his influence when England were down to 14 men with James Haskell in the sin-bin was close to match-winning.

The Harlequins full-back, employed on the left wing by his country, played a key role in winning two penalties which Owen Farrell converted to give England their match-winning lead. Brown was singled out for praise by Stuart Lancaster, who brought the 27-year-old back into the England fold after he had been consistently overlooked by Martin Johnson.

Brown is relishing his second chance with England and he wants to repay the faith shown in him by Lancaster.

“It has been brilliant. I have had to work hard to get back in the squad and into the team and there is no way I am going to let this pass me by,” Brown said. “I am learning so much from Andy Farrell and Mike Catt. It was tough getting into a new role but I have done all right so far and I want to make myself the best wing I can be and stay in the position.”

England came through what was, in many ways, the toughest test of their character since Lancaster took charge 13 months ago to sit top of the Six Nations table. Brown continued: “As soon as Stuart got the job he made sure we had the right culture and the right players that would buy into that culture – really competitive characters, guys who maybe didn’t have the opportunity before and want to prove a point. That is where the character of this team stems from. We have the belief in our own ability a confidence but not arrogance.

“We always know we need to work hard on our game. I am really enjoying playing with these guys and I am learning so much from the coaches. And it really helps when you are winning!”

Meanwhile, France have recalled wing Vincent Clerc to their 23-man squad for the clash with England at Twickenham on 23 February.

Clerc missed the defeats by Italy and Wales with a thigh problem but returns as one of five changes to the squad selected for the opening two matches of the tournament. Maxime Mermoz has been axed, indicating Clerc will be restored to the right wing in place of Wesley Fofana, who will be moved to inside centre after being played out of position against the Italians and Welsh.

Uncapped South African-born flanker Antonie Claassen has been called up alongside lock Christophe Samson, flanker Yannick Nyanga and prop Thomas Domingo Back row forward Damien Chouly, prop Yannick Forestier and second row Romain Taofifenua have been dropped, while flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo is injured.

France squad: Forwards: A Claassen (Castres), V Debaty (Clermont), T Domingo (Clermont), L Ducalcon (Racing Metro), T Dusautoir (Toulouse), B Kayser (Clermont), Y Maestri (Toulouse), N Mas (Perpignan), Y Nyanga (Toulouse), L Picamoles (Toulouse), C Samson (Castres), J Suta (Toulon), D Szarzewski (Racing-Métro). Backs: M Bastareaud (Toulon), V Clerc (Toulouse), B Fall (Racing Metro), W Fofana (Clermont), F Fritz (Toulouse), Y Huget (Toulouse), M Machenaud (Racing Metro), F Michalak (Toulon), M Parra (Clermont), F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier).

FORMER England hooker Lee Mears has been forced to retire with immediate effect due to a heart condition, his club Bath have announced. An abnormality known to occur in some athletes was discovered during a cardiac screening completed by the 33-year-old Bath front row, who announced his international retirement last year.