Unlocking the ‘massive potential’ of a Six Nations title winner who is yet to play a game this season

Unlocking the 'massive potential' of a Six Nations title winner who is yet to play a game this season

After the major strides Leon Brown made last season, it has been a frustrating six months for the Newport-born prop.

But now a new beginning is in sight, raising the question of how best to fulfil the massive potential of the 6ft 3ins, 19st 12lbs tighthead.

He was an important figure for Wales during their 2021 Six Nations title triumph, coming on in all five matches and locking out the scrum at crucial moments, showing his progress in that area of the game.

He was then involved in all three matches over the summer, ending up as the starting No. 3 in the final fixture against Argentina as he won his 20th cap.

But that was to be a fateful outing for him, as he suffered a shoulder injury which was to leave him with nerve issues which have kept him on the sidelines since July.

Now though, there is light at the end of the tunnel, as he is in the frame to return to action for the Dragons against Edinburgh at Rodney Parade on Saturday evening.

It is a welcome boost for his region and for Wales, as they prepare for the defence of their Six Nations crown in just a few months.

Dragons director of rugby Dean Ryan is clear what the priority is for the powerful 25-year-old moving forward.

“The first thing is understanding what Leon needs,” the former England back rower said.

“He needs to play and he needs to learn through playing.

“When we look at his last two or three years, he has been trapped in this cycle of on the bench, injured, on the bench, injured.

“You are talking about a young man with a huge amount of potential trying to find his feet, with single figure games across the season and those involvements have been low minutes.

“Then some of those moments have been really high expectation. They might be the last 10 minutes of a Welsh international and going on to hold a scrum.

“Sometimes you have got to wind the clock back and ask ‘how is this person learning if that’s the only window he is getting to learn?’ It’s really, really difficult.

“Having a young player on an international bench very quickly suddenly deprives him of the one thing he needs, which is lots of games and lots of experiences and the opportunity to make lots of mistakes.

“You can’t ignore Leon. He is a huge presence with huge potential and that’s what accelerated him into the international arena.

“But what you’ve also got to be aware of is how do you make Leon better, and underpinning that potential with lots of games, lots of experiences is crucial.

“That’s what we will try to do. It’s been difficult through the last 12-18 months, but I felt we did get a rhythm of games going last year and we’ve got to try and do that again.”

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On Brown’s lengthy lay-off, Ryan said: “It has been a significant time loss and him being injured has not been easy.

“We would look at this next six to 10 weeks as being a real opportunity for him to go back and learn and find that form back through playing.

“What we see in Leon at the moment is huge potential. It’s not guaranteed to turn up every week because every week is a different challenge for him, every week the game is slightly different and he hasn’t had the opportunity to play consistently enough to know enough of those answers.

“What you do see in each game is massive potential and massive instances.

“So the challenge is to keep him fit, keep him playing and provide him with 16-18 games a year.

“Going into the World Cup, you would want him to have two seasons of 15 upward full games, so he has enough experiences to know what to do facing France or Australia.

“Everybody is delighted to see him back in full training and we hope to have him back fresh now ready to go.

“This next phase of games is going to be a big window for Leon to really gather some experiences because I hope those experiences will propel him back into the Welsh squad.”

Lions centre Jamie Roberts is also in contention for a return in the United Rugby Championship clash with Edinburgh after recovering from minor knee surgery.

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