His side took a notable scalp last weekend when they defeated Munster away, their first win at Thomond Park in nine years, but that hasn’t stopped him ripping things up and starting again for Saturday’s home match against the Dragons. Smith has brought in nine new faces to his starting XV for the EPCR Challenge Cup last-16 clash which, remarkably, is Glasgow’s first-ever home European knockout tie. But was the coach not tempted to stick with the guts of the team that won in Limerick? “No need to,” he said. “We’re confident with the group and I’m just repeating myself when I say a great group makes a good team, so everyone is contributing and this gives us a chance to allow boys like Sam Johnson, Stafford McDowall, Matt and Zander Fagerson, Fraser Brown and Ali Price to reset and get some time way. Enthusiasm is the main ingredient in creativity and you can only be enthusiastic if you are rested and if you are well-prepared. So this time away forms part of a set period, it is not necessarily an off week, it is an opportunity for them to be even better when they come back.”
The other three to drop out of the starting side are Jamie Dobie, Nathan McBeth and JP du Preez who are all on the bench. The newcomers to the team are not too shabby and include six players from Scotland’s recent Six Nations campaign – club captain Kyle Steyn, on-form centres Huw Jones and Sione Tuipulotu, scrum-half George Horne, lock Richie Gray, who has recovered from the rib injury he sustained against Ireland, and No 8 Jack Dempsey who this week signed a new contract – along with an all-new front row of Allan Dell, Johnny Matthews and Lucio Sordoni.
The win over Munster confirmed Glasgow’s place in the United Rugby Championship play-offs with two games to spare. A victory on Saturday would also take them into the last eight of Europe and have their supporters dreaming of glory on two fronts. Smith prefers to look at the bigger picture. “We’re not playing the Dragons, we’re not playing in the EPCR, we’re not playing in the URC – we’re playing mostly against ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got to get better at what we do. We want to better Scotland’s chances, we want to deliver the players in their best form going into the World Cup, we want to roll out a brand here that is effective, not just nice to watch, but also a winning brand.”
It is working so far. Glasgow have lost just one in 13 since early December, a run of form which suggests they are more than capable of emulating the 42-28 victory they achieved against the Dragons in the URC at Rodney Parade in late January. The Warriors were without their Scotland coterie for that one and the return of Gray, Dempsey, Steyn, Jones, Tuipulotu and Horne should make them too strong for Welsh visitors, who also make nine changes and welcome back Wales international winger Rio Dyer.