Last season felt like a failure for Glasgow – Brown
|Pro14: Connacht v Glasgow Warriors|
|Venue: Sportsground, Galway Date: Saturday, 1 September Kick-off: 15:00 BST|
|Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Sport website, BBC Radio Scotland|
When Fraser Brown talks about what went wrong for Glasgow in the latter stages of last season he does it with such surgical precision that there’s a temptation to put down the cup of coffee and call instead for a mask, a gown and some gloves.
Glasgow fans will recall that Dave Rennie’s team had a blistering beginning to their Pro14 campaign, winning 10 games in a row, nine of them with a four-try bonus point. They had their play-off place all-but secured months from the end of the league phase, but they’d also run into problems.
Their elan and accuracy deserted them. Their ability to hold on to ball and take advantage of try-scoring moments evaporated against the best teams. Their discipline problems mounted, their penalty count rose. They got a reputation for being vulnerable up front and their whole campaign ended like the dampest of damp squibs.
“In the last quarter of the season, teams worked us out,” says the hooker. “They attacked us up front all season, but by the end they were really going for the throat and our deficiencies were exposed. We can’t hide from that.
“Losing the semi-final the way we did (28-13 at home to the Scarlets following a 24-19 loss to Edinburgh and a 36-15 defeat by Ulster) it felt like the season had been a failure. Nearly every game we lost was because we got outmuscled. We conceded something like nine maul tries in Europe.
“Our discipline and the amount of ball we turned over was a big factor because you can’t just defend again and again and again without conceding points. You get tired and you concede. That’s what happens when you give teams ball to attack you with.
“We got beaten up at times and the likes of the Scarlets saw that as an avenue into our game and that starts to play on your mind. In looking at all of this, we’ve been really blunt. ‘Why are you walking there? Why are you doing this, why are you doing that? That’s not good enough. That’s not acceptable’.”
‘We have to be smarter’
Brown says Glasgow “have to be much smarter this season”, use their “big guys to win battles and be clever about what we’re doing”.
“The best example I can give is when we played Leinster in Europe,” he says, referencing heavy home-and-away defeats to the eventual Pro14 and Champions Cup winners.
“They went 30 or 40 phases to score. Nothing flash, not getting over the gain-line every single time, but what they were doing was eliminating bodies.
“They were forcing guys to get back up and defend again and again and eventually that tells. They were getting us on the floor and tiring us out. The big lesson we have to learn is to look after the ball and then force teams to do the things that they don’t want to do.”
‘I answered the question about 2,500 times’
Rennie will be relieved to have Brown’s excellence back in the squad because he had to do without it too often last season. The hooker had a nightmarish season with concussion. Three separate episodes laid him low for 10 weeks.
“I had one against the Cheetahs at the start of the season, then one against Australia and another one against Edinburgh the in the New-Year game,” he says.
“When it comes to concussion, more than any other injury I’ve seen in my life everyone becomes an expert overnight. Everybody asks about it, and not in a malicious way, but when you have answered the concussion question about 2,500 times it gets hard.
“The whole thing was a challenge because I was frustrated and I couldn’t play. We had a new coaching staff and you want to prove yourself all over again and I wasn’t able to. I can’t lie. It was difficult watching Stuart (McInally) playing so well week after week. George (Turner, the Glasgow hooker) was also playing well and there was no response from me because I couldn’t go out to play. That’s difficult.”
‘Hunting down’ McInally
A wretched season had a satisfying conclusion when he played wonderfully – in his old position in the back-row – in Scotland’s record-breaking victory over Argentina in Resistencia. He had back spasms that week. He was ill the night before the game. He says that everything was telling him that he wasn’t ready to play, but he did, and he excelled at open-side flanker.
The target now is to put the heat back on Edinburgh captain McInally for the number two jersey.
“If you want to be the best you have to have the guys underneath making you fight and scrap,” Brown says. “I want to play for Scotland and with Stuart playing so well last year it just means I have to chase that down again.
“I felt like I had that chase for three or four years with Ross (Ford) and when you get in front you don’t want to relinquish the jersey. Now I’m chasing again. I’m hunting him down. I’m going to go after him and I want to earn that number two again.”
First up for Glasgow is a trip to Galway to face Connacht on Saturday. Way down the line there’s going to be a final at Celtic Park and that’s a day that Brown and the rest of his team dare not miss.
“That’s the aim,” the hooker says. “We have to be in that final. It’s brilliant for the sport in Glasgow to have it there. It’s a big thing for the city.
“The final has been at Murrayfield before. Murrayfield has had European finals and it has all the international games, so this is something that Glasgow can get its teeth into. A final just down the road from our home ground. That’s exactly where we need to be.”