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Fraser Balmain - 100 Gloucester Rugby appearances

Fraser Balmain made his 100th Gloucester Rugby appearance a few weeks ago against Exeter Chiefs and the tighthead prop was pretty pleased to have reached this milestone in Cherry and White.

“I’m chuffed. It’s actually come about a lot quicker than I thought. When I was at Leicester, I ended up finishing on 96 appearances, so I never thought I’d get 100 anywhere. I’m chuffed and it’s great to have done it at such a great club in Gloucester Rugby.”

Fraser was at Leicester before coming to Kingsholm and believes that he’s benefitted hugely from regular game time.

“Every position but especially prop, you can do all of the training that you want but it’s very different in a game. The more you play, the better you can adapt. Things don’t always go to plan in a game, so you have to adapt and get used to it.”

It’s this regular game time that the Geordie has enjoyed since coming to Kingsholm in 2017. He has shown true durability, playing an impressive 27 times in the 2018-19 season.

Now a fully fledged member of the team, Fraser has formed a good relationship with the other members of the front row at the club.

“I’ve got used to playing with Harry (Elrington) and Val (Rapava-Ruskin) now. It takes a bit of time to learn how the other side of the scrum is going to work and how you can work together as a team.”

Life in the front row is all about teamwork and the relationships between the individuals that come together to make it work.

“Different people scrum in a different way. Val will scrummage differently to Harry and so will Jamal. The more you play with someone, and I’ve probably played will Val the most this season, you start off the season and you’re a bit rusty with each other and you’ve just got to learn what each other likes and by the end of the year, things start to stick together. It’s the same with hookers as well really.

“Val is probably the biggest loosehead in the Prem. It doesn’t take a genius to look at our scrum and see that Val tends to go a lot more attacking and Harry is a bit more patient and takes his time to go through.

“There are benefits to both. I think the way that Skivs picks the team, some weeks teams will find it more difficult against Val and other weeks it would be Jamal or Harry.”

The scrum is still very much seen as the dark art of rugby union and Fraser understands why it is such a misunderstood area of the game.

“The problem is that there are loads of resets. I can see why people get bored. I do think a lot of people and a lot of props and coaches over complicate it. They do make it sound like you need a degree to do it.

“There are a few things I think that if it was your first few games you wouldn’t really understand, and I still don’t think my mum has a clue what I do! I think it can be tricky at times but most of the time it’s pretty simple to be honest.

“The main thing that you want from a forward pack is the correct attitude going into it and that will get you past a lot of the problems. On top of that, if you add a few finer details then it tends to go well.”

Fraser highlights the importance of teamwork and pulling together. 

“I think that’s especially shown this year. The maul is going so well and that gives us confidence in the forward pack. That then comes into the scrum and if the scrum is going well in the game, then I think that seeps into the maul and other areas in the set piece.

“I think if you get one area ticking you sort of bring up the other ones and it’s a bit embarrassing if you are doing terrifically in the maul but then your scrum’s not firing, especially as a prop. It does make you want to back both of them up.”

The forward pack has been a real Cherry and White weapon so far this season and much of this is thanks to the work that George Skivington has done with the group.

“I think Skivs has driven the forward pack. I played with him at Leicester, and he wasn’t about the flashy stuff, it was just about working hard and grafting for each other.

“I think he’s instilled that into everyone that that’s what gets you through the tough patches and we did have that tough patch when he first came to Kingsholm but I think that made everyone tighter now that things are going well.

“You have a confidence after you’ve gone through a tough patch together and it brings you closer and that’s why the lads are working so hard for each other.”

Skivington’s first full season in charge was undoubtedly challenging but without it, things wouldn’t be so good this year.

“If you only ever have good times then I don’t think you’d know what to do when things don’t quite go to plan. There’s been a few games this year when we were well down on the scoreboard for a period and the lads just stuck together and managed to turn it around. I don’t think that would have happened two or three years ago. Those were the games that we would have lost but this year we seem to be coming out on top.”

Fraser Balmain's player highlights

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