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Play-off pain no barrier for Briscoe

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George Riley George Riley | 18:06 UK time, Tuesday, 14 September 2010

As his Hull KR team-mates dusted themselves down from a thrilling derby win ahead of another do-or-die trip to Wigan, Shaun Briscoe's main focus was on not screaming.

Two hours on the dentist's chair is not the ideal warm-up for one of the biggest weeks in Rovers' recent history, but being patched up for battle has become second nature to the 27-year-old.

I spoke to the former Hull FC and Wigan full-back as he collected his young daughter from just her second week at school, with the dentist's painkillers slowly wearing off from the previous day's trauma.

"The hard thing for me is that I've broken my nose so many times I can't breathe properly when they're doing things!" he says.

"When he was drilling, all the water just gathered in my throat, and I can't breathe through my nose so I was trying not to swallow and ended up nearly drowning."

Briscoe has broken his nose more times then he can remember - it's been broken at least six - though he is not planning to sort it out until he hangs up his playing boots.

"My broken nose is my trademark, people call it the worst nose in the history of rugby league but I always think Terry O'Connor's was worse," he jokes.

Briscoe is a funny bloke and a walking reminder of how the brutal game beats you up. The dental issues arose in pre-season, when he lost three teeth attempting to stop Stuart Reardon scoring a try for Bradford.

Shaun Briscoe

Briscoe has broken his nose more times then he can remember

"As he dived over me, my head smashed into the back of his and knocked my front three teeth in," recalls Briscoe. "One of them was smashed completely, while the nerves were killed in the other two."

The patched-up Briscoe wears his Hull KR heart on his bloodied sleeve and is now in the unusual position of being able to knock both of his former clubs out of the Super League play-offs.

"Hull FC was a very special win," he says of Rovers' stunning 21-4 success at their bitter rivals. "We were under real pressure going there, having not beaten them this season and with it being do or die. We probably produced our best performance of the season but it counts for nothing unless we go on. We face an even bigger challenge this week."

Rhinos scrum-half Rob Burrow told me this week that the Rhinos players knew they would produce something special before their win at Wigan. So did Briscoe have a similar sense of what Rovers would achieve at the KC?

"Yes, we had a feeling during the week that we would do it. It was our best week of training all season. The spirit and togetherness - you could just tell we were up for it and everyone was playing well. We knew something special was going to happen."

Briscoe will be back on familiar soil this weekend and back at the ground that he hoped would be his long-term home.

The England international broke through at Wigan in 2002 but left in 2003 to free up room under the salary cap, despite many of the club's fans regarding him as the natural successor at full-back to the great Kris Radlinksi.

"Wigan is my home town, my Super League debut was there and it's a big occasion for me every time I go back," he admits.

"All the family will have the chance to come down and watch, too. They do come across to Hull quite often but this will be just down the road.

"They're not Wigan fans, they support me, they're Rovers fans. The only staunch Wigan fan is my brother. He'll support them no matter what. He came over for the Super League game at Craven Park and sat in his wheelchair in the Hull KR disabled section with his Wigan shirt on, loud and proud! I've been giving him a bit of stick after Sunday and he's been giving it back."

Briscoe believes the current Wigan side under coach Michael Maguire is a more formidable outfit than the 2002 vintage in which he learned his trade.

"This current Wigan side is better than the one I came through in as a youngster," he says. "It's a more all-round team with the players they have got. Maguire is the final piece of the jigsaw. Apart from Pat Richards, who is the outstanding candidate for Man of Steel, you'd not say they have anyone else that has stood out. It has been a very strong team effort."

The lowest-ranked team left in the play-off series, seventh-placed Rovers now have the chance to dump runaway league leaders Wigan out of the competition, although few give them any hope of doing so.

"Our coach, Justin Morgan, will be reminding us this week that they are human and if we play like we are capable of then we can knock them out," adds Briscoe.

"They have been the best side this season but they are beatable. Leeds showed what can be done if you put them under pressure."

And Briscoe believes their own star man, Dream Team scrum-half Michael Dobson, could hold the key.

Shaun Briscoe in action with England

Briscoe is not expecting to be involved with England

"Dobbo is the man who can win it for us with the way he controls us and kicks us around the field," he says. "He's been out best player this season along with Rhys Lovegrove.

"Scotty Murrell also showed what he can do with that massive hit on Craig Fitzgibbon at the KC. We say he's not bad for a fat lad! He doesn't have the shape or speed to play stand-off but his kicking game and rugby brain are second to none."

Briscoe tells me that, whatever happens in the remainder of the play-offs, he is not expecting his season to extend into the Four Nations with an England call.

"I don't think this has been my best year form-wise," he admits. "I think I've been average at best, just a few decent games here and there. I'd love to play for my country but I guess England coach Steve McNamara may stick with Gareth Widdop.

"I haven't had a terrible season but don't think I've played as well as I can to put pressure on Steve to pick me."

So rather than a trip down under with England, Briscoe reckons he will be booking himself back in at the dentist in the autumn.

"These teeth are just temporary ones they've put in to get me through until the end of the season when I'll have the proper work done," he laughs.

"It wouldn't surprise me if they were knocked straight out again this weekend, though."



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