ANDREW BROWNE IS in line for his 10oth Connacht cap against Leinster this weekend and his family and friends do not have too far to travel to catch the game.
The flanker grew up in Renmore, two kilometres from the Sportsground, and cites Eric Elwood, his brother Damian Browne [former Leinster, now at Oyonnax] and Michael Swift as two of his heroes growing up. 36-year-old Swift, who is also in contention to feature against Leinster, has long accepted his role as a Connacht veteran. It is something that Browne is slowly getting used to.
“Getting 100 caps is going to be massive,” Browne told TheScore.ie. “I only found out during the week but knew I was getting close. Being a local lad, I’m absolutely delighted. It’s a great honour to reach that milestone for my province. It was something I could only dream of starting out.”
Browne recalls being small, stringy and ‘the most nervous man going onto the pitch’ during his league debut against Cardiff, just under seven years ago. Former teammate Adrian Flavin made his senior debut with Browne, and prop Wilkinson, in an Amlin Cup match against Racing Club Narbonnes.
Flavin said, “You can often be star-struck as a young lad, training in playing with lads from the senior squad that you always looked up to.
You have to learn quickly, though, that reputations should mean nothing unless you want to be blown to the side. There was never any fear of that happening with Andrew and he has done great to reach 100 caps. If he can stay injury free, there’s always a chance of getting another 100.”
Browne and Swift [head bowed] prepare for a scrum against Treviso in 2012. INPHO/James Crombie
For now, Browne’s sole focus is on his 100th game and the visit of a Leinster side looking to start another winning run going into their Heineken Cup fixtures. Connacht edged Newport Dragons out in their last home game and will be eager to replicate their stunning win over their interprovincial rivals last season.
“In the contest of the Rabo,” said Browne, “the win over Dragons was massive. The [Heineken Cup] win over Toulouse was magnificent but we needed to front up in the league to climb off the bottom. We were disappointed to lose against Munster but I was impressed with how we kept going, and patiently went through phases, to get the losing bonus point at the death. The ball retention was Munster-esque.”
Browne, 27, has every intention on emulating Swift and playing for Connacht into his 37th year but he is pleased with the young talent coming through, from near and far. Fellow Galwegian Eoin McKeon is ‘huge in defence’ and Kiwi import Jake Heenan is ‘an unbelievable talent’ that Ireland would do well to cap once he has been here the three required seasons.
Browne may have to wrestle the 6 jersey off fellow Galway native John Muldoon to feature in a Connacht back-row with Heenan and McKeon. He insists, however, that a Connacht win over Leinster is more important than whether he starts or finishes cap No.100.
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