Englan coach Eddie Jones to name surprise-free squad for Six Nations
The combative Harlequin has beaten off allcomers to make the No15 jersey his own in recent seasons with his long-time rival Alex Goode now surplus to requirements, but after 55 caps the 31-year-old is being put under pressure for his position.
Coach Eddie Jones will use next week's training camp in Portugal to trial two speedier, younger models, Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson, at full-back and if neither is likely to start against France in England's opening game, one or the other could be expected to be given a shot against Italy in round three of the championship.
"I want to have options to Mike Brown," said Jones. "I see Elliot as being a major option and Anthony Watson as being a major option. We'll run those guys at training to give them experience them and see how they come up.
"Mike is still our first-choice full-back and as long as he is first choice he will be selected, but at the same time we are always looking at Plan B and Plan C and Elliot and Anthony are definitely Plan B and Plan C in that area.
"Alex Lozowski is a good young player too. Maybe 10 isn't his best position. Maybe 12 or 15 could be his best position.
Mike Brown to be put under pressure for his position at full-back
"We were delighted to pick him in the squad earlier this year on the basis of what he had done for Saracens and since then he has continued to develop. He is going to be a bloody useful player for us."
It is part of an evolutionary process towards the 2019 World Cup which will also see another thirtysomething, Dylan Hartley, challenged for the captaincy. Jones's recent reference to the Northampton hooker as his 'foundation captain' will hardly engender confidence in Hartley that he will be the man for Japan.
For the short term though, he will continue to lead England having demonstrated his fitness this week and will be confirmed as the Six Nations captain by Jones today.
The 34-man squad the Australian will unveil at Twickenham will be based largely around the group which met in Brighton for a training camp at the start of the month.
Jones has an edgy, restless streak but he has proved a relatively conservative selector since taking charge of England. While he insists he is always on the lookout for an "x-factor" player he has, by and large, stuck with the personnel he inherited from the previous regime.
Get Quotes on Home Insurance
Elliot Daly (pictured) and Anthony Watson look set to challenge Brown for his position
The changes he will make to his squad today will be largely injury driven with neither Vunipola brother or Chris Robshaw available. Manu Tuilagi, as so often in recent years, is also out of the picture.
On the other side of the equation he is able to name his first-choice wings, Watson and Jack Nowell, along with Maro Itoje and James Haskell, who all missed the autumn internationals, while Joe Launchbury is back in the picture after missing the last two Tests through suspension.
Leicester's Ellis Genge stands a good chance of being reinstated to the squad as cover for Joe Marler while Jones is also likely to recall Harlequins' Jack Clifford in the back row rather than roll the dice yet on 20-year-old Sam Underhill.
He is a rare example of an English No7 'fetcher' and has been mentored by the current England manager Richard Hill, a great back row in the World Cup-winning team.
But even Underhill working under Hill has not convinced Jones he is quite ready, even though his contention is that the Ospreys flanker is now available to England having signed an agreement to move to Bath next season.
"He's available now – he wants to play for an English club and has signed. If we wanted to force the issue we could. But at this stage we'll probably look at considering him for the summer tour because he hasn't done enough," said Jones.
Meanwhile, England are to bring in visual skills coach Sherylle Calder during the Six Nations to assist in their bid for back-to-back Grand Slams.
The addition of the South African, who worked with Clive Woodward’s World Cup-winning squad, is intended to improve the peripheral vision of Jones’s side.
She will use laptop drills to develop the awareness of England’s players with the aim of helping them to create and finish more try-scoring chances.
“Eye-hand coordination is certainly something we’re looking at. It would be a consultancy thing,” said Jones.
Calder, who worked with Jones as part of the Springboks’ management team in 2007 when they won the World Cup, also assisted golfer Ernie Els when he won The Open at Lytham in 2012.