DON’T get Fraser Brown wrong when he says this has been an ideal time to spend a week in Italy. It’s not the spring sunshine that the Glasgow Warriors hooker is enthused by, or the day trip to Venice that the squad enjoyed on Sunday.

Pleasant though these things undoubtedly are, the real benefit for the team, according to the hooker, is the chance to be away together at a critical stage of the season. They have been apart for long stretches of the season, with Brown and the other internationals having been away at the Rugby World Cup and then during the Six Nations Championship, and the depletion of the squad has sometimes been reflected in disjointed performances on the field. But recent weeks have seen the PRO12 champions return to the kind of form that won them the title last May, and Brown is convinced that the stay in Italy can only add to the spirit of togetherness that has helped the team get back into the top four.

It was a win over Benetton Treviso last Saturday that took Gregor Townsend’s team back into those play-off places, after months of languishing in seventh or eighth place. If they go on and beat Zebre tomorrow evening in the second match of their Italian trip, they will go above the Scarlets into third, with every team in the league then having three games to play.

“It’s been a nice change,” Brown said yesterday from Verona, the squad’s base for a couple of days prior to their moving to Parma for the Zebre game. “The sun’s been out the last couple of days. It’s just been nice to get away and spend some time together, especially after the Six Nations period, which was quite fragmented.

“We were training on Monday and Tuesday, then we’ve had more of a down day today, which allows a lot of us to put our feet up and look around a bit. But at the same time all the resources we normally have are on our doorstep. It’s a lot more compact.”

On Tuesday, the Warriors had the uncommon experience of training with the team they had just played when they shared a session with Treviso, who they beat 38-16 on Saturday. The two Italian sides may be bottom of the league, but they present opponents with similar problems, and Brown is convinced that the exercise was useful.

“The forwards had live scrums and things against them,” he explained. “It’s quite strange - you never usually get to see other teams training close up.

“It was a great learning opportunity, particularly for the forwards. Both Treviso and Zebre have got really strong scrums, and they do things slightly different from us, so it was a good learning experience seeing how they approached training. Then it was more problem-solving for us live in the session - to see what we could do to try and combat that.

“We’ve had a good look at Zebre this week. A few of us watched their game against Edinburgh on Friday night [the Italians lost 29-0 at Murrayfield - the third game in a row they have failed to score].

“They’re a lot like Treviso in the sense that their performances haven’t given them the wins that they maybe deserve. But they’re going to be just as tough - probably a bit better than Treviso were in terms of their attack. They’ve got a very good set scrum, particularly on opposition ball, and it’s a different challenge for us.”

The Warriors are on by far their best run of the season just now, having won their last six games, but Brown was always confident that they would regain form when it mattered. “It’s been well written about all season that we’ve not been at the heights we hit last year, and that can be attributed to the World Cup at the start of the campaign and the Six Nations which has just finished,” he continued.

“But I think this week couldn’t have happened at a better time, with the whole squad coming back in and allowing guys to spend a bit more time in each other’s company and get a bit more familiar with one another. Then having this run of games, you can see the confidence coming back into the squad.

“Obviously it’s nice to be back in that top four. It was only about five or six weeks ago that people were writing us off. We’ve always known that we had these two games in hand and our destiny has always been in our own hands. The top two in the league is still very much achievable and it’s just down to us picking up as many wins as we can.”

Townsend will announce his team to play Zebre today.