Mike Brown scored two outstanding tries in yet another Man of the Match performance for England as they destroyed Italy 52-11 in Rome, and then paid tribute to speed coach Margot Wells, who has helped propel him on to the international stage.
Wells, wife of former Olympic 100m champion Allan, has spent hours with Brown in recent years, changing his running style in order to speed up the Harlequins full-back, with the Italian defence the latest to discover just how far he has come.
Brown has enjoyed an incredible campaign, voted England's Player of the Series in the Autumn Tests and favourite to be Six Nations Player of the Tournament.
He said: "I always knew I could step up and show what I have been doing in a Quins jersey at Test level. I feel I am a consistently high performer for Quins. The strides we have made in attack has helped my game and the coaches have challenged me to become more involved in phase play. The hard grounds really help and it was great to get around the full-back. I will now have to see if Margot is happy!
"If I deserve a thumbs-up and confidence boost, Margot will always give me that and she will also tell me if there are things I still need to work on. I am not sure exactly what the improvement has been in terms of my sprint times, but it has been great working with her.
"We have finished on a real positive note. It was a really tough game and the tries eventually came even when Italy tried to stop us playing. That's why I got frustrated during the match. We wanted to play and they were intent on stopping us."
Captain Chris Robshaw, who scored the England's seventh and final try, paid tribute to Quins team-mate Brown, saying: "It is great to see Mike so happy. It does take players time to find their feet at international level and he has very much found them. He has been through the dark times where he has had to sit in the shade watching others play, waiting for his chance. He has grabbed his opportunity with both hands and is getting better and better. Mike won't get complacent and will continue to work hard at Quins."
Robshaw believes the whole team has grown during this championship and has been able to handle the mental and physical demands of the Six Nations. They also still have players such as Tom Croft, Alex Corbisiero, Geoff Parling, Marland Yarde and Billy Vunipola to return from injury and increase strength in depth.
He added: "I was very happy to get the try. The whole squad now knows what the tournament requires and maybe we weren't quite ready last season having the short turnaround and then going into an intimidating atmosphere in Cardiff. We have come on massively since then and looked comfortable in this environment.
"We are developing nicely and a World Cup is not won with 15 players – you need a massive squad."
Backs coach Andy Farrell echoed his captain's views, adding: "This time last year was the first time some of the boys had been in the Six Nations and we were on our last legs physically and emotionally in Cardiff. But the players have proved time and time again they can now rise to the challenge."Reuse content