Edinburgh star Tom Brown has welcomed a Rabo Direct Pro 12 opener against twice European champions Munster as the ideal way to start the new competitive rugby season.
Fixtures just confirmed show the teams meet at Murrayfield on Saturday, September 1 and new internationalist Brown, 22, insists standards will have to be set high from the off.
Brown said: “Last year was difficult, especially in the league, as a lot of the experienced boys were at the World Cup. This time we will be going in with a full squad and from the start there will be an opportunity to see how far we have come. Munster will not be lying back. They’ll come out with a strong team knowing they are looking for silverware both in the league and in Europe.”
Brown admits he will be expected to take extra responsibility as one of the 12 Scotland caps on Edinburgh’s books after the departure of the likes of Chris Paterson, Phil Godman, Simon Webster and Kyle Traynor.
Reflecting on a debut which came during the 9-6 summer tour win over Australia, and looking ahead to 2012-13, Brown said: “I’m almost a senior player of the squad now with a new role, a leadership one for me. The cap call was a dream come true.
“I knew I was to be on the bench and on the bus to the game rain started lashing down and the wind picked up. That got me even more nervous.
“Then, when Sean (Lamont) got a knock just before half time, they told me to get ready. Moments later I was standing with (Wallaby winger) Digby Ione staring me in the face.
“Fortunately I got through the last couple of minutes of the first half and back into the dressing-room where I was able to compose myself.
“When I went back out conditions were still among the worst I had played in. Having watched a replay it actually looked okay on television. The reality was that the intensity of that wind was incredible.
“It was in our face for the second half and but in a sense it worked for me. I was expecting high balls to be put up over me all the time; in fact any kick was most likely to go right down the pitch into the dead-ball area.
“The restart did come my way though and that’s when I knew I was in an international match.
“Before that kick I knew (Wallaby stand off) Berwick Barnes was looking in my direction.
“His glance was right down my channel and I knew what was coming. I tried to avoid eye contact but the ball came my way nevertheless. Fortunately I held my own, managed to step inside on an angle, and ran straight into a big second row which was when I really found out about international rugby!
“My uppermost feeling was that one lapse of concentration could have resulted in a try. Even when Greig Laidlaw was lining up the last-minute penalty to win I had to be on my toes.
“One rebound and the Wallabies could have picked the ball up and darted for our line.
“As for that kick, I had the perfect view but I was also aware of a huge gust of wind coming over. I was thinking ‘hold on a minute, let the wind pass’ but Greig just stepped up and knocked it over; he slots anything these days. I just loved being out there and remember looking at the clock with 65 minutes gone and thinking ‘this is going so quickly and I’m enjoying being out here despite this weather’. Hopefully I’ll get another chance.
“For me being able to play for more than half a match meant I really felt I had contributed to the tour even if I missed out on the subsequent matches against Fiji and Samoa (when Tim Visser became eligible).
“The tour was brilliant after disappointment in the Six Nations. Even on the day of the matches guys who were not involved still had a role to play and it has left me wanting more.”
If that was the apex of Brown’s career so far then his competitive edge was sharpened representing Edinburgh Academy in the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup which has just seen the sponsors sign up for another three years.
Now the quest is underway to increase the number of teams from 126 in the under-18s and 129 in the under-16s – a 90 per cent increase compared to when Brewin Dolphin first became involved 12 years ago.
Since 2009 there has also been a girls’ competition and welcoming the growth, Brown said: “I remember the Brewin Dolphin Schools Cup was the main focus of the year. Everybody spoke about it even when turning out at under-16 and under 17 level with Edinburgh and in the Scotland under-18s.
“There were real bragging points to be earned and the competition helped launch me on the way to the fantastic high I enjoyed in Australia.”