Mike Brown will feed off Owen Farrell’s aggression at Ellis Park after insisting that his captain’s deeds rather than words will inspire England against South Africa.
Farrell is skipper for the three-Test series against the Springboks which opens in Johannesburg on Saturday knowing that the post could be available for the 2019 World Cup given Dylan Hartley’s ongoing concussion problems.
The Saracens playmaker has long been viewed as Hartley’s natural successor and Brown appreciates a “special” team-mate who is carved out of his own confrontational image.
“Owen is a great leader. He energises the group through the way he trains and the way he drags people along with him, his physicality and his standards,” Brown said.
“I’ve played alongside him for a number of years now, so I’ve known him a long time and I’ve seen how he has progressed as a person and as a player. I love his aggression and his physicality.
"I can feed off someone like that. He never takes a backward step and always leads from the front. That’s the sign of a great leader.”
Hartley faces an uncertain international future after being forced to take an extended break from the game due to the most recent in a string of concussions sustained against Ireland.
Eddie Jones names his team for the first Test at lunchtime today with the fitness of lock Joe Launchbury the biggest area of doubt.
Meanwhile, academics have pinpointed the type of rugby tackles they believe minimise the risk of head injuries.
Analysis by researchers from Trinity College in Dublin showed that tackling the lower trunk of the ball carrier’s body — not the upper trunk or upper legs — is safer.
Associate professor Ciaran Simms said: “The physical and high-impact nature of rugby union has made head injuries and long-term brain health a concern, and the 2016-17 English Premiership rugby union season was the sixth consecutive one in which concussion was the most commonly reported match injury — contributing to 22% of all match injuries.
“Our findings have helped us better understand the mechanisms of head impacts in rugby union and resulted in these recommendations, which we hope may guide prevention strategies and reduce head injury assessment risks for athletes.”
In 2014 Johnny Sexton suffered four concussions and was told to serve a 12-week stand-down period.
TCD researcher Gregory Tierney said head injury prevention strategies should place emphasis on tackling lower-risk body regions such as the lower trunk.
Nearly four out of five (77%) tackler head injuries requiring assessment were caused by tackles to the upper trunk (47%) and upper legs (30%).
He said: “The findings from this project provide an evidence base, at the elite level, for coaches to develop and implement technical-based concussion prevention strategies for players.”
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