FRASER Brown only returned from a long injury absence late last month, and has had little time since to find his best form. Even so, Glasgow coach Danny Wilson believes his hooker still has a chance of being selected in the Lions squad to tour South Africa, and is convinced that the Warriors’ forthcoming matches are of a high enough calibre to get Brown back up to speed.
With Warren Gatland set to announce his squad on 6 May, the selection of Brown could be seen as a gamble by the head coach and his assistants, among whom are Scotland coaches Gregor Townsend and Steve Tandy. Having sustained a neck injury while playing for the national team at the start of December, the hooker only returned to action in recent weeks. But Brown at his best certainly boasts the robust physicality required to confront the Springboks, and Wilson is sure that, if selected, the 31-year-old will have enough high-intensity games coming up to ensure he will be match-fit come tour time.
So far the Warriors only have three Rainbow Cup fixtures inked in – away to Benetton then back-to-back matches against Edinburgh, the first of which will decide the outcome of the 1872 Cup. But Wilson is certain that the derbies are of the requisite standard, and thinks that a potential match against a South African side later on in the competition would be exactly what Brown needs ahead of the Lions tour.
“I think that the derbies are the nearest things to international intensity,” he said. “Everyone’s fired up to play in them, and there’s a decider, so you’re guaranteed that both teams will pick their full-strength sides for that game. The South African sides will be good tests – exactly the tests the likes of Fraser will want to play in to give himself any opportunity to put his hand up.”
Brown was the only player that Wilson was willing to mention by name when it came to Lions contention, but he believes that other members of his squad are also in the running. Tighthead prop Zander Fagerson is one Warrior who could be in contention, and Wilson is optimistic that there will be a far greater Scottish representation in general this time than in the previous two tours thanks in part to the presence in the coaching set-up of attack coach Townsend and defence coach Tandy.
“I think there are a couple there,” he said of his own players’ chances. “But speculating and pushing names forward would maybe not be completely appropriate right now.
“Beating England and France away in the Six Nations I’m hoping will give Warren Gatland the faith in some of those Scottish players who we know have been playing well and deserve an opportunity. I’m hopeful that a whole host of them – maybe more than in the past – will get selected.
“I certainly think there are a few boys here who put their hand up during the Six Nations and have played a fair amount of rugby, and I’m hoping to see some good news from that point of view. And there’s two Scottish selectors on there now.”
Wilson has already completed a lot of his planning for next season with the recruitment of players such as Santiago Cancelliere, Duncan Weir, Jack Dempsey and Josh McKay, but he remains hopeful of making a couple of other signings. He has also finalised his list of which players will be moving on in the summer at the end of their contracts, and those names will be announced shortly.
“There’s a little bit left to announce, let’s say, which will be positive hopefully. And then we will be able to announce the guys who won’t be with us in the future – some guys who have been here a long time and have been brilliant servants to Glasgow Warriors and maybe for a whole host of reasons it’s time to move on.
“I’d say everybody knows now if they’re with us or not in future. Every player has had their meeting with me and chat about what the future looks like. There will be further announcements confirming who will be leaving and who will be staying. All that is yet to come.
“It’s an inevitable side of the job and one you don’t enjoy particularly, but it’s part of the responsibility to give people contract offers or new contracts or the opposite where you’re informing players that there won’t be a contract offer for them for the future – and the reasons why. It’s always tough, and some of those reasons are very different.”
While there is still uncertainty about the later rounds of the Rainbow Cup, Wilson very much hopes that Glasgow will be able to play against one of the South African sides – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – who have entered the competition. “If we play a South African side that we haven’t played before, it will be an outstanding opportunity to get tested against some of the best players and teams out there.
“We’ll just have to wait and see if it’s realistic. Hopefully it happens, and we’ve got a plan in our minds that that’s what’s happening.”