Franco Smith: Italy chief strong favourite for Glasgow Warriors head coach role - but stumbling block remains

Franco Smith remains the strong favourite to become Glasgow’s next head coach, but negotiations have gone on longer than expected, with the apparent stumbling block being compensation due to the Italian Rugby Federation.
Franco Smith has been heavily linked with the vacant Glasgow Warriors role.Franco Smith has been heavily linked with the vacant Glasgow Warriors role.
Franco Smith has been heavily linked with the vacant Glasgow Warriors role.

When Danny Wilson was sacked at the beginning of June, the Warriors were confident that they would have a successor in place well before the start of the coming season. Scotland forwards coach John Dalziel, Ulster forwards coach Roddy Grant and former All Blacks captain Todd Blackadder were among those to be linked early on with the vacancy as well as Smith, who is currently Italian Rugby’s head of high performance.

However, Scottish Rugby quickly let it known that, a year out from the World Cup, Dalziel’s departure from the national coaching team under Gregor Townsend would not be countenanced. Interest in Grant and Blackadder, if it ever existed, appeared to cool fairly quickly, leaving the 50-year-old South African Smith as the last man standing.

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There were unofficial suggestions from within Scotstoun early last week that the new coach would be announced by close of play on Friday, and the club admitted that they were approaching the business end of negotiations. But on Monday sources hinted that negotiations had not reached a point where anyone was ready to announce a done deal.

The primary reason for the relatively small number of candidates with a plausible interest in the job is the fact that the majority of contracts in top-level coaching are based on World Cup cycles. Right now, Scottish Rugby appear to have little room for manoeuvre, their choice either being to stump up for Smith or to begin their search anew and run the risk of having no-one in place for the coming campaign.

Before assuming his present post in May last year, Smith was Italy’s head coach, a position he took up late in 2019, initially on an interim basis. During his two Six Nations Championships in charge, the Azzurri lost all ten of their matches.

The Warriors support might be relieved that an appointment has been made if and when it happens, but, starved of success in recent seasons, they are likely to view Smith as an underwhelming choice.