Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Kelly Brown retires, set for Sarries Academy role

Kelly Brown - pic © Al Ross
Kelly Brown - pic © Al Ross

Former “Killer Bee” Kelly Brown has announced his retirement from playing rugby at the end of the season, aged 34. He will continue with a coaching role in the Saracens academy which he has undertaken in recent years along with coaching the Navy’s rugby team. That he’s still close to selection – admittedly mainly on the bench these days – in the most powerful and effective rugby team in Europe – shows that he retires somewhere close to the top of the game.

About as nice a bloke as you’d find at the bottom of a ruck, Brown won three Premiership titles and last season’s European Champions Cup with Saracens, who he joined in 2010 from Glasgow. Previously with Melrose and then the Border Reivers until their demise, Brown retires with 64 Scotland caps having captained his country 14 times.

For a man who has battled a stammer all his life, Brown is also an accomplished speaker and singer and the tweets wishing him well from throughout the game show the regard with which he is held.

He was treated harshly in the early days of the Vern Cotter regime, sent into the wilderness in 2014 at the same time as John Barclay. Barclay was rumoured to have fallen out with interim coach Scott Johnson but you can’t see Kelly falling out with anyone.

Andy Robinson and Kelly Brown in sombre mood after defeat to Tonga
Andy Robinson and Kelly Brown in sombre mood after defeat to Tonga – © Scottish Rugby Blog

As a previous captain during the dark years, he was perhaps seen as a remnant of a team with a losing mindset, although his time at Saracens building the club culture there would seem to highlight the folly of that attitude.

Perhaps another one where Cotter should have taken more time to make up his own mind on a player rather than counsel from elsewhere. No matter the warm glow left by recent results, in the early days there were a few decisions aimed at putting the team on the right track that didn’t always come off. Kieran Low/Blair Cowan/Hugh Blake anyone?

The influence of the Killer Bees on Scottish back row play continues to this day.

While some teams – including Scotland – continue to pick 3 opensides, or 3 behemoths, we still hold up the archetype of a balanced back row as a workhorse tackler at 6, a breakdown scrabbler at 7 and a hefty ball-carrier with some footballing skills at 8.

Kelly Brown and Rob Harley congratulate Tim Visser – photo © Alastair Ross

Ironically Brown’s former backrow partner John Barclay is now filling that workhorse role for Scotland with more dynamic 7s available in Watson and Hardie, but Kelly Brown filled the role best during his time and will, I’m hopeful, reappear in the Scottish game before long as his coaching career continues.

We wish him all the best.

19 Responses

  1. Kelly was always a workhorse, not one person can take that away from him, IMHO a scapegoat for the SRU and potentially Scott Johnson and Vern Cotter, I would have chosen him as the starting No.8/6 in his prime but the minute they moved him to Openside Flanker things went wrong. As a leader of men I certainly think he had qualities (much better than Greig Laidlaw) but he never quite managed the leadership of Al Kellock before him.

    As a whole I think his career deserves an applaud a B+ if you will, well done Kelly you have done what was required but never any more.

    With regards to coaching I think you will see him as Melrose Head Coach when Rob Chrystie to leave, thinking about it this would be an ideal stepping stone into an SRU position with Edinburgh or Glasgow as this was very much the case with John Dalziel.

    1. Blimey – 64 Scotland caps, captain 14 times, 3 AP titles and an ERC winners medal is only a B+ ! At least make it a Killer B+ . . . .

      1. He was a very good player at his best, but we must not forget all the bad times, the defeats and everything that came with it, if he had been playing 6 or 8 for the Scotland of 2015-2017 then I believe he would have been hailed as one of the best. A lot of it has got to do with the era that players play in, look at Dan Parks as an example excellent for Scotland but in the scheme of things a good player in a poor team, if it was him v Finn Russell it would be a different story…

  2. I genuinely hold Kelly Brown in the highest regard. I was outraged when he was constantly overlooked for Scotland during Scott Johnson’s reign of stupidity. People say he isn’t a 7, and I agree that he isn’t a traditional 7 in the mould of Watson, Hardie, Pocock et al. But he can and has frequently played 7 for Sarries and is often a nuisance at the breakdown. I believe he is as good as Chris Robshaw and plays a similar role to him, big powerful workhorse, decent ball carrier, all rounder and a line out jumper, can play either 6 or 7 and 8 if needed. Also an inspiration that he became captain of his nation after overcoming and living with a bad stutter and the confidence problems that came with it.
    Congratulations on a great career Kelly, for Glasgow, Sarries and Scotland. He played during the upturns for all three from below average teams to excellent teams, which says something to me.

  3. Good luck to you, Kelly Brown. Leaving Scotland representation aside, no-one stays in and around the Saracens’ first team back row for so long unless he is a special player. Hope to see you again soon in a coaching and development capacity in the Scottish rugby world.

  4. Congratulations Kelly and best of luck in your coaching career.

    The only complaint I have is that you’ve not included the video of Highland Cathedral in the blog. I’ll probably get shot down for this but I quite liked it. Shame it didn’t catch in to become a Murrayfield anthem and we’re stuck with “Sco-o-o-tl-a-a-a-nd, Sco-o-o-tl-a-a-a-nd”!

  5. One of the very few Scottish players to retire with a clutch of medals in his kit bag. I hope he can add at least one more this season to go out on a high.

    Plenty of posters have already commented on his exclusion from the Scotland set-up so no more on that.

    All I’d add is that Mike Phillips announced his retirement within hours of Kelly. Who do you think would garner the more heartfelt plaudits? Kelly Brown is a gentleman as well as a very gifted player. Best of luck with the next part of your career.

    And one other aside – he may not read this, but best wishes and a speedy recovery to Brian Moore.

      1. Lying at deaths door and what does Mr Moore choose for reading material? Stephen Jones? Mick Cleary? Alan Massie?

        No, the literary genius that is the Scottish Rugby Blog :) :)

  6. He’s a patriotic Englishman and he tells it like it is and I admire him for it, get well soon and get back to shutting up that biased welsh git Butler !

  7. As one who both talked the talk and walked the walk as part of a team that won the Grand Slam 3 times in 5 years, Moore stood toe to toe with some of the most ferocious forward packs and never took a backward step. A master of psychological disintegration, as many French forwards can testify.

    1. Yes, there was an intensity about his play that bordered on the definition of a berserker. Plus, as Lairgboy said, as a co-commentator he calls it as he sees it and what he sees and calls he does impartially.
      One of my favourite Moore moments, one which highlighted the enduring risks of pitchside mics, was a match in the 95 RWC when England’s opposition hooker was poncing around and delaying his line-out throw. Clear as a bell, millions of us heard Moore’s voice shout, ‘Come on, just throw the f**kin’ ball in!’

    1. Actually, the worse they get this season ( and it can’t get any worse – surely ! ) the easier it will be for Cockerill to play his own hand. Hodge and Scott surely cannot survive – they have completely lost the dressing room.

      Just so embarrassing for any Scottish rugby fan. This is a team I saw spank Harlequins with ease earlier in the season – now a shambles.

      1. How about ‘eleven in a row’ worse? Without the SRU charade over how the club is run, Hodge, Scott et al would being picking up their P45s at the end of the season. The coaching staff and Petrie get a free ride from the Scottish sporting press, although fans have woken up to their serial failings. Fans now need to use what limited muscle they have to force the SRU to act and remove Hodge, Scott and Wilkins through protests at matches and not renewing season tickets.

  8. So it might be possible for glasgow to reach top 4 still but i reckon its less then a % chance of it happening.

    First Glasgow need 10 points from remaining 2 games away to Leinster and at home to Edinburgh and need to rack up around 120 + pd in doing so, this will put us on 67 points and around 200-210 pd.

    Next we need Ulster and Ospreys to draw and for Ospreys to loose without a bonus point against Scarlets. this will leave ospreys on 67 points and they currently have around 200 + pd.

    And Ulster need that draw at ospreys and then lose to leinster without 2 bonous point loss and this will leave them on 66-67 points and the pd wont matter.

    So … it is possible, can it be done though…

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion