Or more precisely we need to talk about whether Fraser Brown has been Glasgow’s most consistent performer over the past 8 months…
The 2015/16 campaign was an up and down one for Fraser. Injured on Scotland duty, he had to wait until mid-December to play for the Warriors – and then promptly got hurt again 4 weeks later. In essence his season didn’t properly start until the 25th of February and a match against the Dragons at the Rodney Parade potato patch. Since that point he has started of 15 of the 17 games Glasgow have played, more than any other player in the squad. He was on the bench for a 16th – the 10-try romp against Zebre at Scotstoun – but wasn’t used which makes the opening game of this season at the Sportsground the only Warriors fixture in the last 8 months that he hasn’t been selected for.
In a storming performance versus Leicester he was to the fore as the Warriors tore the Tigers apart in a devastating 12 minute burst – first helping keep the road clear for Leo Sarto’s first try with a bullocking clearout and then blasting over for his own score just 3 minutes later. It took Fraser 42 matches to break his scoring duck for Glasgow but he seems to have developed a taste for it with 3 tries in 10 games. This one saw him out in a wider channel after a ruck taking the sort of hard line you would expect to see Alex Dunbar running. Power and pace meant Leicester’s Kitchener couldn’t hold him and Fraz bounced up and over the line in short order.
Fraser has demonstrated his versatility with some commendable performances in the back row, providing cover as an emergency 7. He arguably should have had the Man of the Match award against Leinster in March, playing 62 minutes at hooker before moving to openside for those last desperate 18 minutes as Glasgow successfully defended their slender lead. He also had to switch after just 22 minutes in this season’s home game v Ulster before picking up the MotM award as the starting 7 against the Dragons. His contributions in the recent game away to Zebre shouldn’t go unremarked as well after he spent the week preparing to start at flanker again before having to revert to hooker after Corey Flynn’s late withdrawal.
Fraser has also played his part in a Glasgow setpiece that has significantly improved over the last couple of seasons. Those 15 games that he has started have seen the Warriors lose just 3 of their own scrums for a 96% success rate (up from 92% in the first 19 games of 2015/16 and 83% in the Championship winning 2014/15 campaign). The lineout has also been strong with 91% of Glasgow’s own throw-ins successfully recovered (85% in the rest of 2015/16 and 87% in 2014/15).
All this hard graft in the tight hasn’t diminished Fraser’s impact around the field though, as he still averages 9 carries and 11 tackles per 80 minutes. The tackle count comes with a high completion of 93% – he rarely misses. His work in attack is also very effective, averaging 2.0 metres per carry (one of the best of all the Warriors tight 5 players) and breaking more tackles than anyone bar Leone Nakarawa and Zander Fagerson (among front rows and second rows) since February 2016.
After being included in the Warrior of the Month nominees for March and September, it will be no surprise if Fraser is again put forward for the October award. He is in the form of his life and managing to consistently bring that high level of play game after game. He is due a rest, possibly even the Munster match on Saturday, but he will surely be one of the first names on Gregor Townsend’s teamsheet when available.
Impressive stats. Cotter must surely have him as the starting hooker for the AIs?!
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Personally I’d say he is the number 1 number 2 on form but I think Cotter will stick with the solidity of Ford to start, Brown on the bench ahead of McInally.