Full focus on new season kick-off for Brown
Anyone that has seen Fraser Brown take to the field for club and country will know that the term ‘all-action’ is somewhat underselling the man’s style.
Whether it’s bringing bone-shuddering physicality to the defensive line, snuffing out an opposition attack with a keenly-timed turnover or charging forward with ball in hand, the hooker is never one to shirk a challenge from an opponent.
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Yet with over 100 appearances in a Glasgow Warriors shirt under his belt, in addition to more than 50 caps for Scotland, the 32-year-old has enjoyed a slight change of pace as he prepares for the 2021/22 campaign.
“It’s been the first time I’ve been in for pre-season from day one for a while!” grinned Brown.
“It’s been nice, actually – you always love going on tour with Scotland in the summer, but you do then always feel like you’re fighting fires when you come back. You might only have three or four weeks to work your way back to fitness once you go through the rest periods and so on, and then you’re straight into a game.
“From that side of things it’s been good to have that bit of an extended break over the summer, spend some time with the family and get some time to relax. Being able to come in physically and mentally fresh from day one, that’s been really good from my point of view.”
Whilst the management of a knock prevented the hooker from playing a part in either of Glasgow’s two pre-season fixtures, the club’s co-captain is perfectly placed to assess the state of the squad as the new season looms into view.
With youthful talents like Rufus McLean and Rory Darge having broken through towards the end of the 2020/21 season, and new arrivals such as Jack Dempsey and Sione Tuipulotu ready to make their mark in Glasgow colours, Brown is looking forward to what lies in store for the new campaign.
“I think we’re looking good,” said the hooker.
“We’ve had some very decent additions both in the playing group and in the backroom team, and everyone has slotted in really well. It’s been nice to have a pre-season together, too – that’s something we missed last year for obvious reasons, so it’s been good to have eight or nine weeks with everyone in at Scotstoun together.
“The two pre-season matches were decent for us – the Newcastle game was one we were disappointed not to win, but in terms of some of the shapes and ideas we were putting out on the pitch it was pretty good for us.
“The Worcester match was one we went into with more of a competition mindset, and what was pleasing for us was the fact we took the learning points from the week before and worked to fix them. We were relatively clinical and I thought the guys that went out there showed really good resolve to stay in the match and get the job done.”
There’s also an additional element of hype surrounding the new season, as the new United Rugby Championship takes centre stage for the very first time.
With four new southern hemisphere heavy-hitters ready to introduce themselves to the Warrior Nation, it’s a challenge that Brown and his team-mates are already relishing.
“It’s a really exciting format,” he said.
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“Whenever a new competition or format is launched, there is always a bit of trepidation alongside the excitement, but from a player’s point of view it’s a great challenge for us. Having the four South African sides coming in is huge for the competition – they’re littered with World Cup champions, guys who have just won a series over the Lions, and top-quality internationals.
“The last 20-odd years of those teams testing themselves in Super Rugby can only strengthen the URC as a whole, and the criticism of the PRO14 over the last couple of years was that you wouldn’t always get consistently box-office matches in terms of quality. The new structure, with the autumn window and no matches during the Autumn Nations Series, is only going to ensure that the quality of the competition is high every single week. Everyone’s going to have to lift their game.”
Before getting a first taste of what the new South African franchises will bring to the table, though, there’s the not-so-insignificant task of a trip to Belfast this Friday. As opening matches go, a clash with Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium presents as stern a test as they come for Danny Wilson’s men.
“Going across to the Kingspan is always difficult,” underlined Brown.
“They’ve made it a real fortress and I don’t think we’ve won over there since the 2013/14 season. It’s a tricky place to go, but it’s an exciting place to go as well.
“It’s a great challenge and I think it’s shaping up to be a brilliant occasion to start the new season.”