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Holm Truths: Alex Brown - King of monster hits

By The Citizen  |  Posted: December 29, 2012

  • Holm Truths

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One of Kingsholm's biggest hitters has been laid low himself, forced to retire before time.

Nick Wood pays tribute to stalwart second row Alex Brown, feeling the shudder of one huge tackle in particular all over again.

SCOTT Staniforth cut an incisive line – only to disappear.

Kingsholm cricked its collective neck, craning to catch sight of the expected clean break.

At first the crowd – and many of the players too – could not locate the Australian winger.

But then they scanned underneath Alex Brown and winced.

Brown's monster hit was so well-timed many of his team-mates blinked and missed it.

London Irish wideman Staniforth probably still feels it even now, eight years after that 23-16 Gloucester victory.

Nick Wood thinks that is the single biggest tackle he has ever seen.

It is how the loosehead prop will always best remember his good friend and peer now that Brown has been forced into premature retirement.

Some players are always in the right place at the right time to make an impact ball in hand – shrewd second row Brown's canny defensive placement proved somewhat more destructive.

"Staniforth took a line off the scrum-half and that's still the biggest hit I've seen," reminisced 29-year-old front-rower Wood.

"Browny cut him in half and everyone was still looking the other way because we couldn't believe Staniforth hadn't cut the line.

"You wonder sometimes how someone of his build could be so physical, but he was fantastic at that and so committed to it."

That big-hit commitment caused the shoulder damage that has forced Brown to retire, aged just 33.

The Bristol-born lock lined up and sat down behemoth Northampton Saints prop Soane Tonga'uiha on the opening day of the season.

Expecting the tingling to recede, Brown battled manfully to continue. But even moving well beyond that day, the problem would not resolve.

Severe nerve damage led to complicated surgery, and now Brown will never regain the kind of movement or control of his arm to return.

A career cut short by one scything hit too many – but Wood believes even with hindsight Brown would not change a thing.

Wood continued: "It's a shock really. He put in a big hit on Tonga'uhia in the first minute of the first game of the season.

"He probably just thought it was a bad stinger, then started to get worried about it when he didn't recover feeling in his arm.

"It's crazy, and also a reminder to all of us that our careers are just one hit, one tackle, one scrum away from being over.

"It's sobering, to be honest. But you have to see beyond that and realise that's the risk we take on as professional rugby players, and that physical side of things is something Browny certainly embraced wholeheartedly.

"It's never nice to see a player forced to retire. We're gutted for Browny. He's a great friend and a great servant of the club."

Brown set the record for the most consecutive Premiership matches, impressing first at Bristol and then carving a decade-long niche at Gloucester.

Wood and Brown are both in the grip of benefit years, and the duo will continue their calendar of events for the rest of the season.

Brown will continue to help mastermind Gloucester's lineout work this term, and Wood hopes there is a role for the savvy operator in the long-term at Kingsholm.

Wood continued: "Alex commanded instant respect at Kingsholm for his quality as a player, but also for the way he put his body on the line.

"Ultimately it's cost him his career, but much as he may have regrets about that I'm sure he wouldn't change the style he played in, 100 per cent committed every time.

"Everyone knows him as a lineout specialist, but his defensive work is enormous. I've seen him put in some of the biggest hits I've ever seen on a rugby field.

"He was also very unsung in the scrum. Out of 200-odd games I've played I reckon he's played 150 of them behind me, and he made me look good so I've got to thank him for that.

"I always looked forward to playing with Browny and I'm going to miss him out there on the field.

"I hope now he can make a good transition to life after rugby, and maybe his benefit year events will help with that – it would certainly be great to see people put their weight behind that to help him.

"He's been such a great servant on and off the field for Gloucester, and a fine ambassador for the sport as a whole.

"I find lineout calls fairly straightforward now, but that's only because of the work Browny helped me through when I was younger, learning and understanding.

"If he can impart that experience and knowledge onto the younger members of the squad then there'll always be a role for him here. And personally I hope he stays on."

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  • RoccoAgain  |  December 30 2012, 9:00AM

    I haven't heard any news on Harden's injury but the front row will be in desperate stakes if he is not available for next weekend. We can't have another Tigers' game with a prop in the sin bin. That would not have happened to Harden.

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  • Drusus  |  December 30 2012, 8:51AM

    Harden is the No.1 tight head at Gloucester!

    |   5
  • Archie_Brew  |  December 30 2012, 8:45AM

    I know who the expert is on our tight head and that is Nigel Davies and he has selected Rupert Harden for 9 out of 12 Premiership games.

    |   6
  • Straw90  |  December 30 2012, 8:42AM

    Nigel Davies has made Rupert Harden is his first choice starting tight head and he is the expert. On the other hand, the troll Autotroll/Kap721/akadu believes he is more of an expert than Nigel Davies."

    |   6
  • Roon77  |  December 29 2012, 11:53AM

    I really hope Rupert is fit again to start against Irish next weekend. We don't want to go into that game with an underpowered scrum.

    |   5
  • s_sorca  |  December 29 2012, 11:30AM

    Thankfully we have Dan Murphy followed by Nick Wood to hold the front row together on the loose side against Tigers but Harden's physical presence will be sorely missed at tighthead."

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  • richardpenton  |  December 29 2012, 11:23AM

    Rupert Harden = The best tight head at Gloucester.

    |   6
  • Buggsie  |  December 29 2012, 11:19AM

    Hopefully Harden is well on the way to recovery and we can get him back starting for Gloucester ASAP. Davies knows that he needs his best tight head (Harden) out on that pitch and playing.

    |   6
  • CamCampbell  |  December 29 2012, 11:15AM

    Well done to Rupert Harden for showing through the season why he is Nigel Davies' first choice tight head. The troll autotroll/akadau/Kap721 can't get over the fact that the man who selects the team knows better than him and that is why he always selects Harden for the tough/crucial games when he is fit.

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  • JBuddy  |  December 29 2012, 10:58AM

    Who could possibly replace you troll? Well a lump of lard probably. Harden is the best and first choice tight head. Fact!

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