Glasgow Warriors coach voices concerns ahead of new season over lack of game-time

Franco Smith admits he is concerned about Glasgow Warriors’ preparations for the new campaign after both their pre-season friendlies were cancelled.

Glasgow Warriors' only pre-season outing was a hastily arranged fixture against Ayrshire Bulls. Picture: Ross MacDonald / SNS
Glasgow Warriors' only pre-season outing was a hastily arranged fixture against Ayrshire Bulls. Picture: Ross MacDonald / SNS

The Scotstoun club kick off the BKT United Rugby Championship in Italy on Friday evening with a testing opener against Benetton. They lost the corresponding fixture last season in Treviso and the worry for Smith is his players will be undercooked, particularly at the breakdown.

The former Springbok, who took over as Warriors head coach in the summer, has seen his best laid plans go awry as Glasgow’s scheduled friendly matches against first Worcester Warriors and then Ulster were both called off.

Worcester, who have been mired in financial problems, pulled out when their players weren’t paid, and the game against Ulster was cancelled when the SRU suspended all competitive rugby last weekend as a mark of respect following the death of the Queen.

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“There is concern,” said Smith. “I’m not concerned about our physical preparation, I’m just concerned about the game-related preparation.

“I’m a new coach here and I’ve got a different way of looking at it. Sometimes you need a game to look at to make them understand.

“I am concerned around the breakdown area. If you don’t do it live there is always an area where there is a high risk and injury risk. In training we try to manage that to a certain extent. Obviously, player safety is important and therefore I would have liked to have seen them against opposition.”

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Franco Smith has seen both his club's scheduled pre-season friendlies cancelled. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Glasgow’s one hit-out came in a hastily arranged game against Ayrshire Bulls, the Super6 side, who stepped in after Worcester called off. Smith was grateful to the Bulls but felt his own players were found wanting. “I think our mentality changed when we weren’t playing the team we expected,” he said.

Smith has staged matches against the academy players in a bid to give his squad more practice and there was also a full-blooded training game on Friday after the Ulster fixture was cancelled.

“We simulated as much as we could, so there’s guys there with broken noses – but it is still difficult to get it at a level which it should be,” said the coach.

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“I’m worried that we’ll be a little bit too flat on attack because of eagerness.”

Having spent much of his coaching career immersed in Italian rugby, including a spell in charge of Benetton, this week’s opponents are unlikely to spring too many surprises on Smith. He watched them beat Edinburgh 29-26 on Friday and thinks they will be “difficult at home”, noting their defensive resilience in the friendly win.

“Edinburgh had nine lineouts within five metres and just scored one try so you can read a lot into that,” he said.

Smith has been eager to improve his squad’s fitness and some players have been in at 7am to work on fat-burning before breakfast.

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“We’ve worked hard, and I definitely feel that physically we’ve come on leaps and bounds,” he said. “Now it is about channelling all the energy in the right direction and to maintain that conditioning. We haven’t reached the bar. I think rugby demands much more.

“Everybody keeps saying: ‘We’ve worked hard, we’ve worked hard.’ But it depends on what you think is hard work.”

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