REGARDLESS of whether Glasgow Warriors retain top spot in the Rainbow ‘Northern’ Conference of the Rainbow Cup or are overtaken by either Benetton or Munster next weekend, co-captain Fraser Brown is in no doubt that the competition – widely derided as a meaningless end-of-season calendar filler – has been a valuable exercise for his club. 

It started disastrously for the Scotstoun men when they slumped to a humiliating 46-19 defeat away to Benetton in round one, but they have since won four games on the bounce playing an increasingly imposing brand of physical rugby, which culminated in Friday night’s gritty win over mighty Leinster. It was their first success against the Irish giants in six attempts, and undoubtedly the team’s best performance of the season (probably the last two seasons). 

That victory put Warriors one point ahead of Benetton and four points ahead of Muster in the conference table, but they have played all their pool matches while both rivals have a game left next weekend. So, their immediate future is now out of their hands, but their general form during the last month suggests that they can once again be masters of their own destiny in the longer term. 

With 17 or 18 players either retiring or moving on in the summer, there was a definite sense that Friday night – which was the last home game of the season regardless of whether Warriors reach the final – represented the end of an era, and with a full pre-season coming up and several exciting recruits on their way, we are about to get a chance to really see if Danny Wilson is the head coach to bring the glory days back to Scotstoun.  

“That Benetton game was petty chastening, but we’ve come together well and used the fact that we are losing a lot of good guys who have given a lot of this club as motivation,” said Brown. “I think there was a little bit of resetting our priorities after that game and just realising how important this place is to us, and the effort we have to put in every single day of every single week. And I think Friday night was the culmination of the last couple of weeks. 

“It was really pleasing because there were periods of that game when they were clearly on top and the guys out on the pitch, and particularly the boys who came off the bench, did really well to increase the tempo and bring a lot of physicality when it was needed.” 

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Warriors’ recent successes might have been based more on desire and tenacity than style and a killer game-plan, but that’s a pretty good starting point ahead of a season which hopefully won’t be as badly interrupted by various Covid factors as this one was. 

“We’re at our best when we are physical,” agreed Brown. “We love to play a brilliant brand of attacking rugby, but from 2010 – from Sean Lineen, through the Gregor Townsend and Dave Rennie eras, to Danny now – everything has been based on being physical, winning collisions and being very direct.  

“When we can do that, it brings tempo to our game. It’s part of Glasgow’s DNA and it is amazing to have that back in our game because I think we’ve lost that at times this year. 

“It’s been a very difficult year for everyone, and we didn’t tackle some of the challenges we were faced with in the best way, but like everyone we tried to do what we thought was best at the time, and it was a learning process,” he added. 

“With a full pre-season under Danny coming up and some really exciting guys who came through this year, as well as a few exciting additions to the squad arriving soon, the Rainbow Cup has definitely helped us build momentum going into next season.” 

Brown, who has been capped 54 times by Scotland, was one of the big-name omissions from the 37-man squad named last week for the national team’s summer schedule. He admits to being frustrated at missing out but can understand that the three matches – against England A, Georgia and Romania – present an ideal opportunity to give some less experienced individuals a chance. 

“It has been a long year and I had a pretty serious injury in December,” he reflected. “I always want to play whether that is for Glasgow or Scotland, so sometimes having that decision taken away from you is the best thing for you.  

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“In hindsight, I think it will actually be good for me to be able to rest up in the summer and freshen up before coming back in with Glasgow to build for next season. 

“I can only go and play for Scotland if I perform well for Glasgow, and I have an almighty fight on my hands here at the minute because George is playing so well.  So, from a personal point of view, it is probably a good thing that I can go and freshen up in the summer and really attack next year.”