MELROSE international Kelly Brown returned to his home in St Albans this week with mixed emotions.
Delighted to be reunited with his wife Emily and their two daughters Amber, 7, and Leena, 1, but still trying to figure out just what went wrong as the national side went down to Tonga and fell to a record low of 12th ranked nation in the rugby world, Brown, who captained the side throughout the autumn campaign, told TheSouthern: “Sunday and Monday were pretty dark for myself and the rest of the team, but you have to try and get yourself over it, and start to look forward again.
“We feel we have let Andy (Robinson) and the other coaches down and have had to look at ourselves and take the blame for that on our own.
“I think as captain I take things upon myself a bit more. It’s only been a few days, so I haven’t been able to find anything specific yet.
“There was nothing obvious. We knew what we had to do and were prepared to do it, but when it came to the crunch, everything just went wrong. I will be watching all the matches back to try and figure out what happened.”
With all that resting on his rather large shoulders, the Saracens back row forward is now looking forward to spending time with his family and getting back to the English club.
“It was great to see the girls again,” he added. “Leena is at the age where she is running up to every man she sees and calling them dad! She even did it to a mannequin in a shop the other day, so that gave me something to have a bit of a chuckle about.”
While Brown gets himself reinstalled into life down south, however, the recruitment drive for a new head coach has began.
A number of experienced Test coaches could figure on the radar screen, with Nick Mallett, Jake White and Eddie O’Sullivan all potential candidates. Closer to home, ex-Melrose man Bryan Redpath, recently removed from his head coach role at Sale, and Kelso’s Alan Tait, a former assistant coach to Ian McGeechan and Frank Hadden, could come into the frame.
Local coaches George Graham and Craig Chalmers have both ruled themselves out of the running, stating that their club commitments come first.
With the 2013 Six Nations little more than two months away, however, the Union may decide to bide their time by promoting Scott Johnson, the senior assistant coach, into a caretaker role.
As far as Brown is concerned, the job of selecting a replacement should be left well and truly to the experts.
“As a player I’m not even thinking about who will take over,” he commented. “Whoever it is will come on and want to put their own game in place and our job is to deliver. In the meantime I will just be looking after what is in my control and concentrating on my own game, so that if I get called up again I am ready for it.”
The quality of Kelly as a rugby player is there for all to see, but it is his determination off the pitch that has given him huge respect from his team mates and those involved in the wider rugby circle – he has worked hard to cure a lifelong stammer and, of course, come back from a horrific leg break and dislocation.
“I got my 50th cap against New Zealand and am in my eighth season as a pro, so I am really pleased with how my body has come out of the last few games. I haven’t felt any problems in my leg at all.”
Brown received the injury during his club side’s Heineken Cup victory over Treviso last January, ruling him out of the Scotland squad ahead of the 2012 Six Nations.
“It has been a bit of a mental challenge, but my main aim has been to recover as quickly as I could and get back to the game,” he concluded.
It’s something he and the rest of the Scotland squad will be looking to do all over again ahead of next year’s Six Nations.