This time last year, Tom Brown was playing for Currie alongside Matt Scott and had made a few appearances for the 7s squad. Now the pair of them will line up for Edinburgh in front of 35,000 fans in the biggest club game in Scottish rugby history. Scott has one cap under his belt, and Brown may not be far behind.
Despite Edinburgh’s long term incumbent Chris Paterson not being involved with Scotland recently, first injury and now the form of Brown have handed the young full-back his first Heineken Cup start.
“My goal this season was to secure the 15 jersey for Edinburgh” says a tracksuited Brown, surrounded by the venerable members of the Scottish Rugby Press pack. In pressing his own case, Brown has been in great form for Edinburgh, appearing on the wing and at full-back so far this season. Earlier praised by his coach Michael Bradley for his strength under the high ball, as the last line of defence is where Brown sees his future.
The fight to take the 15 jersey away from Paterson and other challengers such as Jim Thompson has been a determined one from Brown, but conducted without any bitterness in the rivalry with one of Scotland’s legends. In fact Paterson has been a mentor, and a “huge help” to him since he signed his first pro contract.
“Mossy has been a help throughout the whole year. He’s a good person to look up to. Getting the nod ahead of him is a huge occasion for me, and I hope to fill his boots well.”
After the team announcement, Paterson shook the younger man’s hand and immediately offered any help he could give Brown through the week of preparation, in terms of help and advice or training.
Since he was told on Tuesday, he’s had a week for the nerves to build in anticipation of facing some of rugby’s aristocrats in the Toulouse backline. But for a young man facing a game that could make his name in the same way as, say Stuart Hogg’s appearances in the Six Nations did for the Glasgow player, he’s not terrified.
“It’s such a big game, so there’s excitement as well.”
Brown is not new to the Heineken Cup completely, having been involved in all Edinburgh’s pool matches from the bench and scoring in the epic Racing Metro match. Even facing an opposite number such as Yannick Jauzion, and with finishers like Lee Jones and Tim Visser queing up alongside him for chances to score, Brown is excited to show what he can do, and perhaps cross the tryline himself.
“I’m going in with a lot of confidence; I’m looking forward to it.”
On his opponents he was also full of praise.
“Looking at French teams, you’ve got to keep playing for 80 minutes, and it’s a back three we’ve got to look out for. Toulouse are a great counter-attacking team… but we’ve done our homework and we’ve got to get them down, get them low and put the pressure back on them through our defence.”
He’s also excited to be lining up alongside a player he knows very well in Scott and who he hopes will provide a spark that can set the Edinburgh backline alight.
“Matty’s been playing brilliantly and taken his opportunities well. I take a lot of confidence from starting with Matt, we’ve played through the age grades and with Currie. With the opportunities the young boys are getting these days, we’re just striving to go further and further.”
“It’s a huge game and to be involved in it I am absolutely delighted, and I can’t wait to get out there.”