Rugby: Brown is out to lift spirits

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Tom BROWN will be playing to let some sunlight into the tragedy-scarred North Berwick rugby club when looking to help Edinburgh overcome Toulouse in today’s Heineken European Cup quarter-final at Murrayfield.

The full back, who celebrated his 22nd birthday exactly a week ago, has displaced the legendary Chris Paterson to earn his first competition start and the promotion could scarcely have come at a better time so far as providing a pick-me-up for the East Lothian club where he began his career.

This week they said farewell to former captain Jonny Mitchell, 30, who had spent the last seven years in a wheelchair after an accident on the pitch while another player, Russell Freer, passed away last month.

Says Brown: “I didn’t know the two men personally but I follow what goes on at the North Berwick club.

“The club has been a huge help to me and I was back in the town this week although my family moved up to Edinburgh when I was 16.

“From Primary One level onwards I was part of the club’s mini-rugby section being coached by guys like Alan Reid and others.

“I always look for North Berwick’s result and hope they keep rising. Hopefully I can soon get down and show a bit of support by helping out with the minis or something like that.

“Any kind of good news for the club at this time will hopefully be welcome.”

If ever there was a declaration of attacking intent by Edinburgh it is surely the introduction of Brown for his first Euro start.

The one-time Edinburgh Accies and Currie player is a renowned free spirit as shown when he notched as try on his competition debut in the 48-47 home win over Racing Metro this season.

“Racing Metro was a key game in my career,” admitted Brown, adding: “It is the most game time I have had in the Heineken Cup so far and when I came off the bench with 20 minutes to go and the team 21 points down Michael Bradley, our coach, said ‘just have a go’.

“To win what was such a big game in the history of the club is something I took a lot of confidence from. The strength of my game is in attack and if I can get permission to run and attack so much the better.

“In the last 20 minutes the Racing game started to break up a bit and hopefully that happens against Toulouse. They are a big side but they may slow down which is a time when we can maybe find a bit of space to attack. Not that we want to have to come back like we did against Racing Metro!” It is unrealistic that Edinburgh can expect to overcome the four- times champions without reaching into their full repertoire.

Brown said: “We’ll certainly need to vary our game and attacking with the ball is a huge part.

“We need to be running at them but we need to retain the ball and be clever as well.

“The go-forward ball we get will be key whether that is playing into the corners or using our kicking game as well.

“We’ll need to keep them guessing. They are a big side and could take chunks out of us. But if we move them around we could find gaps.”

This will be first occasion Brown has clapped eyes on the French giants in the flesh and he admits: “Playing against Dusautoir, Jauzion and Beauxis is a huge occasion for me. I will probably be a bit in awe when I first see them but when I am on the pitch you have got to play your own game.

“Whoever is up against you you just have to be determined to beat them and I’ve had advice on handling the occasion from both Lee Jones and Dave Denton who have broken into the Scotland team this season.

“On top of that Chris Paterson has been my official mentor for a couple of years and this week has underlined just how professional he is. Chris has always been there when I have called upon him for advice but when the team was announced with me at full back he came up straightaway and shook my hand.

“It is not awkward competing with Chris because there have been times when we’ve been playing in the same team but last week against Scarlets was important because I got a start at full back and have kept me place.

“There is no getting away from the fact this is huge given I was playing club rugby last season with the occasional outing off the bench for Edinburgh,” Brown went on. “I intend to enjoy every minute.”