‘Mismanaged’ Grant Stewart backed to flourish second time around at Glasgow Warriors

Coach Franco Smith averts hooker crisis

Franco Smith may just have averted a hooker crisis at Glasgow Warriors by bringing Grant Stewart back to Scotstoun and the coach believes the 29-year-old still has plenty to offer after being “mismanaged” earlier in his career.

Stewart, who rejoined the club on Thursday, has been named as a replacement for Saturday’s match against Zebre in the United Rugby Championship.

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With Fraser Brown having announced his retirement this week and George Turner and Johnny Matthews both injured, Glasgow have been deprived of three Scotland international hookers. In addition, Angus Fraser suffered a concussion while playing for the club’s A-team against Boroughmuir Bears last week and is unavailable. It means Gregor Hiddleston will wear the No 2 jersey in Parma in what is only his third professional start for the club.

Head coach Franco Smith during a Glasgow Warriors training session at Scotstoun Stadium.  (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)Head coach Franco Smith during a Glasgow Warriors training session at Scotstoun Stadium.  (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Head coach Franco Smith during a Glasgow Warriors training session at Scotstoun Stadium. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

Stewart offers experienced cover from the bench as he prepares to begin the second chapter of his Warriors career, almost two years after being released by the club. The Carluke-born player has been training with Glasgow this season after playing for Ayrshire Bulls in the Super Series and Smith likes what he’s seen of him. The coach has also delved into the player’s past and taken note of what he achieved at the club first time around, including helping them reach the Guinness Pro14 final in 2019 and scoring in the narrow defeat against Leinster at Celtic Park. His form led to a Scotland call-up, and Stewart won his first and so far only cap in the World Cup warm-up win over France at Murrayfield later that summer.

If Stewart - nicknamed ‘Cheese’ - lost his way a bit subsequently then Smith would appear to be the right man to bring him back on track, a sort of patron saint of second chances.

“Four or five months ago I had already foreseen something in the sense that you always carry five hookers and with Fraser not being involved I got to know Cheese and understand where he has come from and what was his background,” said Smith. “I watched the game against Leinster in the final where he scored a very good try in 2019. I thought this guy had just been mismanaged for a while and let’s get him into our environment.

“That was five months ago and he bought into it after struggling a little bit initially with a calf injury. We integrated him and he’s been throwing every week for us, he’s lost a lot of weight, he got back in shape and he’s looking really good.”

Stewart has signed a deal until summer 2026, a show of faith from Smith whose rugby missionary work is an ongoing project.

“There are a lot of boys out there who got so close but didn’t get the opportunity at the right moment,” added the coach. “Our environment helps players to be the best version of themselves. That is why we invited the Glasgow district team and the Caledonian Reds district team to train with us over the last few weeks with our Viper/A team in preparation for all these games. We got to see a little bit and the invitation was for them to come in and see what it takes to be a pro.

“Maybe there’s somebody still out there who’s not had that opportunity but is ready to be unearthed and discovered. Going forward with the Super Series stopping soon there’s going to be a lot of opportunity for those players who think they can’t make it to come and use an opportunity. And that is what, I think, the Warriors stand for. We want to give every person a chance and influence people’s lives.”

Zebre Parma v Glasgow Warriors: URC, Stadio Lanfranchi, Parma, Saturday, 1pm BST. TV: live on Premier Sports.

Zebre Parma: Lorenzo Pani; Jacopo Trulla, Franco Smith Jr, Enrico Lucchin, Scott Gregory; Geronimo Prisciantelli (capt), Thomas Dominguez; Danilo Fischetti, Marco Manfredi, Muhamed Hasa, Leonard Krumov, Dylan De Leeuw, Guido Volpi, Iacopo Bianchi, Giacomo Ferrari.

Replacements: Giampietro Ribaldi, Samuele Taddei, Juan Pitinari, Matteo Canali, David Sisi, Ratko Jelic, Fetuli Paea, Taina Fox-Matamua.

Glasgow Warriors: Josh McKay; Kyle Steyn (capt), Stafford McDowall, Sione Tuipulotu, Kyle Rowe; Ross Thompson, Jamie Dobie; Allan Dell, Gregor Hiddleston, Lucio Sordoni, Sintu Manjezi, Max Williamson, Ally Miller, Thomas Gordon, Henco Venter.

Replacements: Grant Stewart, Nathan McBeth, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Euan Ferrie, Gregor Brown, George Horne, Tom Jordan.

Referee: Eoghan Cross (IRFU).

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