It is an impressive achievement by Smith who took over in August on a two-year contract after leaving his post as head of high performance with the Italian national federation. Glasgow finished fourth in the URC standings, four places higher than the previous season, and went through the regular season unbeaten at home. They lost in the play-off quarter-finals, to Munster at Scotstoun, as well as going all the way to the final of the Challenge Cup where they were beaten by Toulon in Dublin. It was Glasgow’s first European final. Smith, 50, came out top in a poll of all 16 BKT URC head coaches.
“It was a huge surprise to me, really,” Smith said. “It’s a huge privilege – no one goes into this kind of job to chase individual awards, and to have this award voted for by my peers makes it even more special. There are some unbelievably talented coaches in the URC, so to be recognised by them is a real honour.
“From day one, it was important to get to know the players and where the strengths of this group lie. We felt it important to sell our dream and our belief to this group, and they have bought in right from day one. Everyone was open minded and open to change, and from the players, the coaching team and the people behind the scenes, everyone has played their part in the journey on which we are just starting out.”
Smith has brought a rugged durability to Glasgow who have played with attacking intent throughout a campaign which started slowly but built and built. They lost four of their first seven games in the URC but just one of the next 11 across the regular season, Standout performances included a hard-fought win over the Stormers, last season’s URC champions, and back-to-victories over Edinburgh to reclaim the 1872 Cup. They also won the Scottish-Italian Shield.
Al Kellock, Glasgow Warriors’ managing director, told the club’s website: "I cannot speak highly enough of Franco's impact since arriving at Scotstoun. From day one, he has fully bought into what this club means to everyone associated with Glasgow Warriors and has brought the best out of the players on the field. He has also played a key role in driving our culture and standards this season, and he has led from the front this season. As Franco himself has said, though, this is only the beginning for this group; I'm excited, as I'm sure are our supporters, to see where Franco, the coaches and this group of players take this club next season."
Smith has spoken regularly about building on this season’s progress and it would be a major surprise if Kellock was not trying to tie the coach down on a longer-term deal as he prepares to enter the final year of his contract. Smith added: “This is season one for this group. This is not the end for us, this is just the start. It’s a stepping stone.”