Franco Smith vows to rid Glasgow Warriors of bad habits as picks three debutants for URC opener
The Smith era begins in earnest this evening when his side take on Benetton in Treviso in the opening match of the new BKT United Rugby Championship season.
It is a venue at which Glasgow have stumbled, including last year when the concession of three penalties in the final 90 seconds saw them turn a winning position into a defeat.
Smith, who includes three debutants, knows such indiscipline must be eradicated if his team are to be serious contenders.
“It can take time to get rid of bad habits,” he said. “Tiger Woods might need 2000 putting strokes to change his putting style.
“We’ve spoken about it but unfortunately have not been able to work on it [due to the cancellation of friendlies]. It was different in the first game [against Ayrshire Bulls] because there was still a lot of uncertainty in different areas and there were one or two penalties we could use as examples of being blatantly stupid, if I can put it that way.
“It’s a big work-on for us. Hopefully we can change the behaviour of the culprits.”
His team boasts plenty of experience, which should help. Fraser Brown starts at hooker, Richie Gray is at lock and George Horne is at scrum-half, while new captain Kyle Steyn is making his 50th appearance.
Blended in with the older heads are new faces. The biggest surprise is at stand-off where Tom Jordan makes his first competitive appearance for the club. The New Zealander was a stand-out performer for the title-winning Ayrshire Bulls in last season’s Super6 but this is a significant step up.
Smith’s hand has been forced to a certain extent by the absence of Ross Thompson (back) and Domingo Miotti (hamstring) but the coach could have opted for Duncan Weir. Instead, Weir is part of a very experienced bench.
“I think he can really compete there,” Smith said of Jordan. “He’s not had a chance last year for numerous reasons. We have to see if he can play there. Maybe last week would have been a better opportunity [Glasgow had been due to play Ulster] but I have 100 per cent confidence that he can surprise us.”
There are first starts too for the Argentine international prop Lucio Sordoni, who signed a short-term deal, and Sintu Manjezi, the South African flanker who joined in the summer from the Bulls. Manjezi is at six, with Matt Fagerson in the unaccustomed No 7 jersey.
“I don’t worry about the numbers on the players’ backs,” said Smith. “There’s a tendency in world rugby that the hooker must put the ball in the lineout, the scrum-half must put in the scrum, a No 6 carries and a No 7 fetches. I don’t think so.
“I think Matt is a good rugby player. He’s got the characteristics of a seven and I’m excited to see him in that role.
“We are going to change the shape and the look of Glasgow Warriors from what it used to be. We’re trying to do our own new thing with a bit of innovativeness so I’m definitely not concerned with the number on the players’ backs.”
Benetton v Glasgow Warriors (URC, Stadio Monigo, Treviso, 17.30 BST. Live on Premier Sports)
Benetton: Rhyno Smith; Edoardo Padovani, Ignacio Brex, Joaquin Riera, Ignacio Mendy; Giacomo Da Re, Dewaldt Duvenage (c); Ivan Nemer, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Simone Ferrari, Scott Scrafton, Federico Ruzza, Giovanni Pettinelli, Manuel Zuliani, Lorenzo Cannone.
Replacements: Giacomo Nicotera, Federico Zani, Tiziano Pasquali, Niccolò Cannone, Michele Lamaro, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Marco Zanon, Mattia Bellini
Glasgow Warriors: Cole Forbes; Sebastian Cancelliere, Sione Tuipulotu, Stafford McDowall, Kyle Steyn (c); Tom Jordan, George Horne; Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown, Lucio Sordoni, Lewis Bean, Richie Gray, Sintu Manjezi, Matt Fagerson, Jack Dempsey.
Replacements: Johnny Matthews, Oli Kebble, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Rory Darge, Thomas Gordon, Ali Price, Duncan Weir.
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU).
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