Fraser Brown: Good to be back
Competing at the top level of international rugby can be tough, but despite the setbacks that have come his way, Scotland hooker Fraser Brown has shown remarkable resilience. His 2017/18 season was beset with injuries, but in the six months running up to the Autumn Tests, Brown has enjoyed a return to form and is clearly relishing being back in the Scotland camp, particularly after his try-scoring appearance against Fiji.
“It’s good to be back,” he said. “Obviously I had a pretty frustrating time last year; I think I had four or five different injuries and a lot of time out with my head as well, which was frustrating. So it was nice to have the tour in the summer then have a break and come back fit and ready to play this year.”
Brown made his Scotland debut as an injury replacement on the 2013 summer tour to South Africa. His first Scotland appearance at BT Murrayfield came six months later in the second-half of the 2014 Autumn Test against New Zealand. 2015 was the year when he really hit his stride, featuring off the bench in every match of the RBS 6 Nations before earning his first start for Scotland in the Summer Tests later that year – against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium. Brown’s performances – both for Glasgow in their PRO12 title-winning year and internationally – were enough to earn selection in Scotland’s 31-man squad for Rugby World Cup 2015, where he featured in all five games, starting against South Africa at St James’ Park.
He’s been a regular feature in the national side ever since, earning 36 caps. Despite missing the beginning of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations because of a concussion, he was back to full strength for June’s trip to the Americas to take on Canada, USA and Argentina. It was here that Brown got the chance to showcase his broad skill-set and depth of understanding of the game with a starting role on the openside flank in the national team’s 44-15 win over Argentina in Resistencia.
“I really enjoyed the summer tour, The USA game was disappointing but as a whole it was a different kind of tour because there were so many young guys there and I think a lot of the emphasis for us was on how you can integrate everyone in really quickly. I thought a lot of the young players were brilliant on tour, on the pitch and off the pitch.”
The new talent coming into the Scotland squad and the competition for places in a number of positions, including hooker, is something that Brown says motivates him. He points to the good form of both George Turner and Stuart McInally as something that has led him to work even harder.
“It’s almost the kick you need to up your game and be right on top of things,” he said. “At Glasgow we’ve got such a young squad that I’m actually now one of the senior players in the club. I want to deserve to start every week and be up there because of my experience and because of my form.”
When it comes to making the transition from the club game to the Test match arena, Brown says that when you come into camp there’s a certain level that is expected from everyone, both on and off the pitch, as well as a requirement to get up to speed quickly.
“On Monday for instance we went through our new line-out calls for the week and everybody was expected to be able to run them 100% on Tuesday,” he said. “So it’s a much sharper learning curve in terms of what you’re expected to do. It can be difficult when you first come in but it’s really beneficial because once you know that’s the level expected, it’s really easy to pick those combinations up again.”
Brown says that the high level of competition to secure a place in the match-day 23 is helping to push players to improve their game. He also says that in terms of both club and country, things are “light years” ahead of where they were even five years ago in terms of the depth of players available.
“A few years ago, say if Finn got injured, you might wonder who else would be at that level and have that attacking flair, But now you’ve got Adam in the wings and he’s played brilliantly this year. It’s the same with our nines. We’ve gone from maybe a couple of years ago over-relying on Greig, to now thinking we’ve got Greig, Ali, George, Henry, Sam – they’re all playing really well. It’s a brilliant position to be in – although maybe not if you’re a coach trying to pick a team.”