Scottish Daily Mail
Franco thought my best years were behind me... I had to prove him wrong, says Fraser Brown
IT only took one conversation with Franco Smith to make Scotland international Fraser Brown fear he was on the way out at Glasgow Warriors last year.
South African Smith, who had just replaced Danny Wilson as head coach, immediately made it clear to the hooker that his time at the club was limited.
‘We played Ayrshire Bulls in a hurriedly arranged pre-season match in Inverness for Franco’s first game,’ recalled Brown. ‘I was chatting to him at breakfast and he turned around and said: “It’s important for you and Richie Gray to have one last good season here”. And I’d only known him for four or five days by that point.’
It says much for the 33-year-old’s determination and dedication to succeed that he has since shown Smith he was wrong to make any assumptions.
So much so that he has just been rewarded with a one-year contract extension and hopes to be involved in tomorrow night’s European Challenge Cup final against Toulon in Dublin.
Reflecting on that initial chat with the coach, Brown revealed: ‘I just thought: “I’m going to prove you wrong”. I’m a little bit belligerent, so that’s just the way it is. Richie Gray got a new deal as well. Both the old-timers.
‘The way I looked at things is that we all had to prove ourselves, just as you do every time a new head coach comes in. This season, I’ve just tried to get back to basics, go back to what made me a good player in the first place, and just work hard.
‘Franco appreciates hard work and people who do their job. We’ve seen that from everyone this season, so getting the new deal was satisfying.
‘I don’t want to stop playing rugby at the minute, so to be here for another year is ideal. I’ve spent pretty much my entire career at Glasgow and, from a rugby and family point of view, we’ve loved being at the club. To be able to continue that for another 12 months is something I’m very happy about — and proud of, too.’
Brown, like every other Warriors player, was still waiting to hear if he had been selected for tomorrow’s showdown when he spoke to Sportsmail yesterday.
Smith has already made clear that picking two hookers out of three — Brown, George Turner and Johnny Matthews — is proving to be one of his toughest selection decisions.
Having already been left out of Scotland’s World Cup training squad, Brown is desperate to start in one of the most important matches in Glasgow’s history.
‘George, Johnny and myself share a car together from Edinburgh to Scotstoun every day for training,’ said Brown. ‘obviously, one of us isn’t playing every single week, so the morning before a team announcement is okay, but, in the afternoon, one of us is always a bit grumpy on the way back home.
‘Scotland have benefited from that competition for places over the last couple of years as they have had a good group of hookers to pick from, all pushing each other and it’s the same here.
‘We all have different attributes. We’re not the same type of player. That also allows us to bring something different when we play and allows the coaches to rotate depending on the opposition.
‘It’s hard to get in the team, but that’s how it should be. Competition is strong and I’m just glad I don’t have to be upstairs picking the team.’
Brown is on the reserve list for Gregor Townsend’s training squad after Stuart McInally, Ewan Ashman, David Cherry and Turner were all picked ahead of him. only three hookers will go to the World Cup in France.
Does he think a barnstorming display against Toulon, or when he plays for a World XV against the Barbarians at Twickenham the following week, might influence Townsend if an injury crops up?
‘There have been four hookers picked ahead of me and you would have to ask Gregor if me doing well in games coming up will make a difference,’ said the former Scotland captain. ‘We’re playing in a European final, so, if we play well and come away with silverware, then I am putting myself in that conversation.
‘All I can do if I get to play is play the best I can. Winning teams tend to be looked at more fondly.
‘I’ve been lucky enough to go to two World Cups. Along with the lions, playing at a World Cup is the pinnacle of an international career, so to not be in the squad for this one is hard to take.
‘I also have the Barbarians to look forward to and that will be fun. Also, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s the nature of rugby. I’ve been around a long time and been left out of squads before, then brought back in and missed out through injury. It’s the way the world works.’