O'Shea hopeful over Brown injury

Congleton Guardian: Conor OShea, pictured, is hopeful that Mike Brown will be available for England's three-Test series with New Zealand Conor OShea, pictured, is hopeful that Mike Brown will be available for England's three-Test series with New Zealand

Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea is hopeful that England star Mike Brown will be fit for next month's daunting Test series against New Zealand.

Brown, player of the tournament in this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship, limped off with a hamstring injury midway through the second half of Quins' 31-17 Aviva Premiership play-off defeat against Saracens at Allianz Park.

England boss Stuart Lancaster is already without full-back alternatives Alex Goode and Ben Foden for the June 7 All Blacks opener in Auckland, as they will play in the Premiership final at Twickenham seven days earlier.

"Hopefully, it is just a little twinge," O'Shea said.

"It was hot out there, and the surface is different to what we are used to playing on.

"It's a twinge, I hope, nothing more, but we will see after the next couple of days. He has got a few weeks until that first Test in New Zealand. Hopefully, he is alright."

Saracens were dealt an injury concern of their own after skipper Steve Borthwick suffered a shoulder problem.

Former England captain Borthwick retires at the end of this season, and Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: "We hope he is okay.

"A career as wonderful as his doesn't deserve to finish today. It deserves to finish in two weeks' time.

"There is definitely concern about him. We will know more in the next 48 hours."

Saracens powered on in relentless pursuit of a domestic and European double as they booked a Premiership final appointment with Northampton on May 31.

The 2011 league champions fought back magnificently from a six-point interval deficit at Allianz Park to prevail as Kelly Brown, Brad Barritt and Chris Ashton scored tries.

Fly-half Owen Farrell chipped in with 16 points from the boot as Saracens' second-half masterclass underlined a rude state of health building towards next Saturday's Heineken Cup final against holders Toulon in Cardiff.

Brown and wing Ugo Monye scored Quins' tries - Nick Evans added a penalty and two conversions - and at times it was far from plain sailing for Saracens, who were briefly reduced to 13 men when centre Marcelo Bosch and prop Matt Stevens received yellow cards in quick succession, and they trailed 17-11 at half-time.

But 20 unanswered second-half points showcased their quality, and they will now contest a second Premiership final after winning domestic silverware three years ago.

Borthwick's injury apart, the only other blot on Saracens' day was Ashton appearing to shout at Evans in an attempt to put him off as he lined up the conversion of Brown's try, which caused a touchline skirmish as the teams left the field at half-time.

"I didn't see that, genuinely," McCall added. "I was in the changing room having a nervous breakdown."

And O'Shea said: "Humility is up on the walls here and around the stadium, and honesty.

"It wasn't part of what you would expect someone to do, but we leave it. They are worthy finalists, worthy winners. Move on."

McCall revelled in his team's end-of-season exploits, offering a graphic comparison with last season when Saracens lost a home Premiership play-off to Northampton and made a Heineken semi-final exit against Toulon.

"The squad is really confident at the moment," McCall said. "The players front-up every single week.

"We've got some demons from the past in these semi-finals - against Toulon last season and Northampton here. I think we have come a long way as a team and a squad in the last 12 months.

"Our season was over this time 12 months ago. It was finished, we had nothing left to do, and we just had regrets.

"We've had five years of building to this point. It hasn't all gone smoothly - there have been some big setbacks along the way - but we have got players who are more mature and are better than they were a couple of years ago. It's good to be part of."

O'Shea, meanwhile, had nothing but praise for his players after they threatened to derail Saracens for around 50 minutes of a stamina-sapping contest.

"We played outstandingly in the first half - the intensity was there. I am unbelievably proud of the way our guys fought out there," he said.

"I look back on this season, and the two best sides are in the final. I think ourselves and Leicester fought tooth and nail, but we just ran out of a bit of steam."

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