Fraser nearing fifty for country

Fraser nearing fifty for country

Scotland hooker Fraser Brown is set to make a 50th appearance for his country on his next outing in the thistle. Read the feature interview with Fraser Brown before it's published in Sunday’s match programme, when Scotland host France at BT Murrayfield.

Seven years ago, Fraser Brown came off the bench to earn a first international cap in a 30-29 win over Italy in a quadrangular tournament in Pretoria.

In hopefully celebrating a half century of Scotland appearances this weekend against France, the Glasgow Warrior reaches a landmark he would never have imagined would be achieved on that June afternoon in South Africa.

Even donning the thistle once seemed improbable to a player who had given up on making it at the top level only two years before. The whirlwind of being flown out to a summer tour just as he’d signed professional terms at Scotstoun was, unbeknownst to him, the embryonic stages of a stellar career in the sport.

Fraser Brown in action, Scotland v Italy in Quadrangular Tournament 2013

“I’d been called out as injury cover after Pat [MacArthur] injured himself in the first game of the tour against Samoa,” recounts Brown. “I’d just signed full-time at Glasgow, started pre-season on the Monday and got a call on the Tuesday from Gav Scott [former Team Manager] asking to come out and join up with the squad.

“Stevie Lawrie had done his back, so I flew out, sat on the bench against South Africa in the second tour game, but didn’t get on. Stevie was then fit for the next match so I thought I wouldn’t be needed.

“I remember that week, Humphs [Jonathan Humphreys, former Forwards Coach] asked me why I wasn’t doing much throwing in training and I said that I presumed I wouldn’t be required. He quickly told me never to presume anything and the next day I found out I was going to be on the bench.

“I had flown out on my own, didn’t have my own kit, had to use Fordy’s when I arrived because he was with the Lions. He’s an absolute mountain so it wasn’t a great fit!

“As the time ticked on against Italy, in a tight game, I found out I was going to be used with about eight minutes to go. My first line-out was so quint that I think Al [Kellock] caught it at his side. The game was at Loftus Varsfield so it was a case of: two days as a professional, first Test match, at altitude – I was blowing to say the least.”

It didn’t matter. Fraser had played international rugby for Scotland when he thought it would never happen.

“I’d been through so much in terms of having no professional contract only two years before, a host of mental hurdles and so even travelling over to South Africa - I was actually quite relaxed about it all,” he added.

“I flew back the day after that Italy game and straight back into training with Glasgow so it was like a dream really.”

Brown had to wait until the following November’s Test at BT Murrayfield against the mighty New Zealand before adding to his tally, but the occasion was worth the wait, as he explained: “I count that game as my first proper cap. The first one I felt I didn’t earn; that I was the last cab off the rank due to injuries and so on. But the All Blacks game was one I felt I’d worked hard for and been rewarded.

“Night games at BT Murrayfield are just incredible. When the All Blacks were out in the middle, there were about 45,000 Scotland supporters in the crowd and they were singing Loch Lomond during the Haka and without hyperbole, it was one of those where the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“After games like that, as a young player, you realise when the game is over and you’re off the pitch, the opposition players are just regular guys who are doing the same job. That’s something I think you learn as you go on.

“When you’re chatting to one another after a game, you realise that playing for your country is the best thing you can ever do, and they feel the same. Apart from having a child (he is about to become a father for the first time), playing for Scotland is the absolute pinnacle.”

Fraser Brown in the team huddle

Experiencing that pinnacle is something Brown has managed to do 49 times now and with that landmark cap imminent, the versatile forward says it gets better every time: “I think it becomes more special. Getting capped is something I always wanted to do and in 2010, 2011, I never thought I would have that chance - so getting that first cap in 2013 meant that I could always say I’d played for Scotland.

“To be able to say I’ve done it 50 times is just something else. It sounds daft, but I reckon it took until I’d won about 30 caps until I realised just what it meant. I love travelling to games, seeing the supporters, soaking it all in and then all the stuff that comes after the game as well.

“I get quite emotional before a game and I appreciate it more now than I ever could before. You know as you get older that it could be your last opportunity in the shirt. I’m yet to meet a guy who hasn’t given their absolute all when having the opportunity to represent Scotland. It really is the greatest thing you can do as a rugby player.”

“It’s an amazing feeling and it’s something my family are very proud of. My Grandad was a trialist I think, my brother was a better player than I am but got some worse injuries than I did; Dad was a good player but went down the farming route. So I’m immensely proud and hopefully I’ve had one or two decent games during the previous 49!”

This interview will feature in the print matchday programme for Scotland v France on Sunday 8 March.

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