SCOTLAND head coach Gregor Townsend jolted forward in his seat whilst watching Glasgow Warriors’ Guinness PRO14 Grand Final defeat to Leinster from the Main Stand at Celtic Park, when he noticed that hooker Fraser Brown had picked up a painful-looking foot injury. A quick exchange of glances with Dr James Robson sent the respected medic scurrying off to the changing rooms in search of more details.

In a World Cup summer, everyone is in a heightened state of alert – especially when a player as experienced, influential and effective as Brown is involved. He may have fallen behind Stuart McInally in the international pecking order during the last three seasons, but his drive, energy and technical ability mean he remains a key member of the squad – especially as the other two hookers, George Turner [five caps] and Grant Stewart [uncapped], are so inexperienced.

The fact that the 30-year-old has had a pretty wretched run of luck in recent seasons when it comes to injury will have added to that sense of trepidation.


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The player, meanwhile, was not thinking that far ahead. His first and foremost concern was the match he was reluctantly having to bow out of, and it was only a couple of days later that he began to think about the longer term implications of the injury.

“Sometimes you do things and you think you can play on for a little, but I knew straight away that I couldn’t on that occasion because it was pretty sore,” he recalls. “I was gutted to have to go off because of the importance of the game, it was something we had been building towards.

“Once I got diagnosed – maybe by the middle of the [following] week – my mind turned to the time-frame for the World Cup.

“When you get an injury and it feels quite bad you always initially think what the worst-case scenario could be because if you build yourself up to that and then pull it back when you get the diagnosis, you can set yourself up,” he continues. “Whereas, if you were thinking it is just a couple weeks and then you find out it will be four or five months, that can be quite difficult to deal with.

“So, I always think it could be quite bad. You just deal with it when it comes along as best you can and try to set targets and goals to tick off every week. It's the only way you can deal with long-term injury.”

The good news for Brown – and for Scotland – is that while he required surgery on ligament damage in his foot, he has been told that he has every chance of being back in time to make the plane to Japan. He might even make the last of the team’s warm-up matches, against Georgia at Murrayfield on September 6 – although Townsend has made it clear that he would have no problem with selecting the player even if he doesn’t have any recent game time under his belt.


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In fact, so confident is Townsend in Brown being able to recover in time that he has chosen not to call up another player to train alongside the three fit hookers in the squad. The days of players taking several weeks to get back up to full pace after a lengthy lay-off are long gone.

“It is not the case now that if you have a foot injury you are out for six weeks doing nothing,” explains Brown. “We are in every single day – whether it is upper-body conditioning, weights, rehab and so on – so they get you in the best possible place meaning that when you are fit to return you are fit to return playing rather than taking three or four weeks to get to that standard.

“I should be fresher, to be honest. I won’t have other things like shoulder niggles. Guys who have breaks mid-season through injury tend to finish strongly because they had time to get over things and come back fresher. So, it can be a bit of a blessing.

“If I was ready to play in any of the warm-up games it would be nice but, at the moment, I am taking it week by week,” he added. “As we get further into the summer, it will be a case of seeing where we are and going on from there.

“Gregor has not put any extra burden on me at this stage and it is a case of me doing my rehab and seeing how I get on. The target for me is to be there or thereabouts for the last couple of warm-up games.

“I've been to Japan twice before. My Under-20s World Cup was in Japan and then I was there in 2016. I'm looking forward to going back.”