'To beat them three times and nil them, that achievement is right up there'

Mike Brown was part of England's historic 3-0 win over the Wallabies six years ago

It is Test week for England and while the focus will switch to the here and now over the next couple of days, the memories of their last trip Down Under is a narrative which cannot be ignored.

Six years ago, it quickly became apparent to Mike Brown the immediate impact Eddie Jones was having on an England side who had been dumped out of their home World Cup just eight months before their visit to Australia. 

"It was almost like we literally got that enjoyment back after 2015," Brown tells TRU. "We were enjoying the journey and the hard work that goes in with working with Eddie and the eye-opener to that side of things."

After securing a Six Nations Grand Slam at the beginning of 2016, Jones led his re-energised troops into battle against the Wallabies and the new head coach was determined to build on an ideal start to his tenure.

"There was a little bit [of expectation after the Six Nations success] but there was also a bit of fear as well," says Chris Robshaw. "We were going to Australia to face a team that had basically ended our World Cup. As a team, that mentality of proving a point actually brought us closer together and I think it really allowed us to form those bonds and develop."

Robshaw had been captain for England's poor World Cup campaign, but he - along with many of the squad who had worked under Stuart Lancaster - looked like different beasts as Jones guided his side to a historic 3-0 whitewash.

"I think one of the things which helped us was when Eddie knew we had had these long seasons, it was important for us to have a little break somewhere," continues Robshaw. "I think for that season, we were going for 13 months straight maybe even longer, but there were little pockets, which might only have been a day or two, of recharging when we got there and that was massive.

"You get to play a little bit of golf, spend some time together, you might have a couple of beers because then the serious stuff starts so I think those kind of two or three days were hugely important to mentally recharge and reset yourself ready to go for the next three weeks."

As Robshaw alludes to, the England squad had just completed a demanding season and while the continuous cycle of rugby threatened to take its toll on the players, the former skipper reflects on how determined Jones was to push them to their limits if they were to be successful.

"Eddie kind of set his stall out early that this was going to be a brilliant tour, we are going to have fun but it is the hardest you have ever worked and it was. It was extremely tough, it was extremely challenging but actually when I look back at my career, and what I miss - and what I also don't miss - is how hard those sessions were and how hard Eddie made us work because the ability to push your body that hard is something quite enjoyable and I think it helped us especially ahead of the final Test when the series was won."

"We had the whole 'Bodyline' stuff and the fact that we were just going to go after them [Australia] physically and chuck everything at it," Brown adds. "I think that showed in our performances across all three Tests. I don't think there was one minute in any of those games where you can sit back and say 'they didn't chuck everything into that.' We were just lobbing our bodies into every problem, every carry, every ruck! That [James] Haskell hit on David Pocock always stands out.

"I also remember just before half-time in the second Test [which England won 23-7] just defending for our lives. I was literally running side-to-side, filling gaps, chucking myself into everything, trying to slow the ball down, getting my head kicked in.

"Your body is aching, every hit is agony but the feeling after you stop a team like that for five minutes as well is like, 'wow, we're in this and we've got them here.'

 "After the last Test, I was in the room after a decent night out and I was sharing with Jack Nowell. My whole body just started cramping up. That was probably due to the lack of non-alcoholic drinks we had had so I was very dehydrated but it was also fatigue. I think my body was just switching off after a long season thinking; 'Thank god it is done!'"

The Bodyline reference - which harks back to the 1932-33 Ashes series when England bowled hard at the body of the great Don Bradman - was a theme which underpinned the tour.

Whilst training sessions were full-blooded at times - with young apprentices Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler specifically brought into the environment to 'keep everyone on their toes' - away from the training pitch, the Australian press were adding more fuel to the England fire which Jones was able to harness.

"I remember one ex-England coach who is an Aussie, Brian Smith, coming out with a few digs," Brown says. "That was one I really remember. There was the advert as well but I didn't really take that in too much.

"It was more the Brian Smith one because for me personally, he shunned me for an England thing which kind of holds deep for any player who gets stung by a certain coach. Also, the way he was slagging our team off and when you are so involved with the team, you don't like people from the outside slagging you off. It really became personal and as soon as it becomes personal to a team, an individual or a set of individuals, then you know the performances are going to be there."

"We definitely felt it in the press," Robshaw says. "That is what the Aussies do. They like to give you a bit of stick and that is why this rivalry is great. It is great when you win! It is great when you're getting the stick and you can go back to them and say we have come down here and done an absolute job!"

Brown - and England - only used the hostility and points scoring to their advantage: "You just hear the crowd noise lifting especially when they've got the ball, but it was more when I'd be waiting for a penalty kick to the touchline and I was right by the crowd. The fans were quite close to the side of the pitch in all the stadiums we played in and I would be getting it from the crowd! It was in a jovial way as well so nothing bad, but you would turn around and give them a little smile which wound them up even more because the Aussies do like getting into people and dishing it out.

"There were moments on the pitch where, for me especially, I would be having a back and forth with [Michael] Hooper and there was one time with their 10, Bernard Foley, where he had a little lash out at me and then the captain, Stephen Moore, he was giving me s*** saying no one likes me which I kind of had to laugh at because it was a bit playground but that just fired me up even more."

The ferociousness of training and everything in and around the Test arena was a stark contrast to the off-field environment. Robshaw praises the balance Jones struck whilst Brown references The Ant and Dec 'I'm A Celebrity' pranks devised by Jamie George and Danny Care as a small moment on the tour which just added to the wider picture of England's success.

"It was the best time I had in an England shirt," Brown says. "It was obviously a great achievement on the field not just because of how little people have won there in the past including England, but also it was at the end of a long season for a lot of us and because it was the year after the World Cup. To beat them three times and nil them, that achievement is right up there."

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"I would agree with Mike," Robshaw adds. "It was a phenomenal tour. Of course, the results help that massively, but also just the ability of how hard everyone worked to try and get the best out of each other made a massive amount of difference."

Jones may look back to 2016 and drip-feed some of that nostalgia into this upcoming tour. Back then, everything was going smoothly for the England boss but in more recent times, he has endured some low moments which has slightly increased the pressure 15 months out from a World Cup.

Brown is delighted his old mate Danny Care is back in the international fold whilst fellow Harlequins legend Robshaw is looking forward to seeing former colleague Marcus Smith working with, and possibly alongside, Owen Farrell. 

Care and Farrell - as well as seven others who are currently preparing for Saturday's first Test in Perth - featured in the series six years ago. That dose of experience may suggest Jones is looking for results rather than experimenting ahead of the World Cup and both Brown and Robshaw wouldn't be surprised if their old international boss flicked back through the archives in order to triumph Down Under.

"I think he might do that, but knowing Eddie, he doesn't want to stand still," Robshaw says. "He learns from the past, he learns from experiences, he learns from other people. If he thinks that was a different time six years ago and we are a different team now, then it is just about getting the best out of people. If there are tricks and traits he used then which worked which work today, and I'm sure there are some, will he bring them back? For sure he will."

"Looking at our squad, I picked one for my Daily Mail column and looking at that, that looks to me like a decent blend of youth and experience if he decides to pick the one I picked which probably is not the case knowing Eddie!" laughs Brown. "I think he will probably be referencing the Bodyline thing again which is throw everything at it, but underpinned the main message will be unbelievably brutal physicality which is the message we had.

"If you want to rattle the Australians, you have to match and go beyond their physicality otherwise if they get a foothold in the game, then they will be doing whatever they want because they love the fast-paced game same as always over the years. You have to batter them a little bit with physicality, get in their faces both sides of the ball. Every collision, carry, hitting a ruck or the tackle, it has to mean something and really show what England means to you because that is the way you will win those Test matches over there."

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