Scotland hooker Fraser Brown backed to win World Cup fitness battle

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend is confident that hooker Fraser Brown will be fit for the World Cup after having an operation on a foot injury he picked up in last month’s Guinness Pro14 final.

Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg signs an autograph for a fan in Inverness, where Gregor Townsends extended training squad gathered to kick off their preparations for the World Cup. Picture: SNS/SRU

The 29-year-old Glasgow Warriors forward is on crutches but, speaking in Inverness yesterday, where Scotland’s extended training squad gathered to kick off their preparations for the tournament in Japan, Townsend said the outlook was hopeful.

“We are confident Fraser will be ready in time for the World Cup,” said the coach. “We won’t see him training much over the next few weeks as he’s continuing his recovery from that [operation].

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“It was a toe issue. He has had a tidy-up operation around two of his toes because of what happened in the Leinster game.

“When we saw his reaction we were initially worried it was his knee, and then something else, so it’s good news we are confident he’ll be available for the World Cup but we’ll see how he goes over the next few weeks.” Brown, who has 42 caps, is one of four hookers in the training squad along with Calcutta Cup skipper Stuart McInally, George Turner and Grant Stewart.

Townsend admitted that the warm-up Tests against France and Georgia may come too soon for Brown but the coach said he would still be happy in that event to take him to Japan, with Scotland’s 
opening match coming against Ireland in Yokohama on 22 September.

“That might be too early but that will depend how he goes once he starts running again. We have not added someone to the squad as we believe he will be fit in time for the tournament.

“He would have to be very close to being ready by then. We would have to make a decision whether to play him in those games – maybe the last one. There are two weeks between the last [warm-up] game and the Ireland game. We will know a few weeks before if he is on track and if he’s not we will work with the three other hookers we have here or perhaps look to bring someone else in as a precaution. Just now we are confident he will come back 
in time.

“Fraser has had a couple of injuries but has played very well on his return on two or three occasions. It’s just unfortunate he got injured in the last game.”

Although there has been no official retirement announcement it is understood that Edinburgh hooker Ross Ford, who is Scotland’s most capped player on 110 caps, will not play again and Townsend confirmed he wouldn’t be an option if Brown fails to be fit enough for the plane to Japan.

The Scotland team have been training at Highland RFC’s impressive Canal Park facility and yesterday the coach and some of the players attended a Tartan Touch event which attracted 170 kids from 14 local schools.

As part of the team bonding element, the squad were split into groups and raced from Stirling to Inverness, completing tasks and challenges on the way north.

Townsend believes the 
preparations have got off to a perfect start in the Highland capital.

“Really beneficial. We 
wanted to do something a bit different at the start of this World Cup camp,” he said. “We had an idea of somewhere in the north, looked at a few places. Our management and fitness teams came up here and were really impressed.

“In terms of what we wanted to do rugby wise it’s been great but also just that feeling of us coming together at a place not many have been at. We tend to train in Edinburgh, or close by, during the Six Nations so 
to see this beautiful part of Scotland has been excellent.”