Rufus McLean case is 'elephant in the room' for Glasgow Warriors, admits Franco Smith

Franco Smith has admitted that the case of Rufus McLean has become “the elephant in the room” for his Glasgow squad ahead of tonight’s final Pool A game at home to Bath.

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

The Warriors should have been going into the Scotstoun clash on a high after winning their last seven matches, but that feat and other rugby matters have been overshadowed by McLean’s pleading guilty to domestic abuse charges and his subsequent suspension by his club.

The 22-year-old Scotland international will be sentenced next month, and is also awaiting the outcome of an internal disciplinary hearing at Glasgow. With the case yet to be completed, Smith stated he was limited in the comments he could make, but revealed he had addressed the squad about the issue.

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“Yes, it’s the elephant in the room, that goes without saying,” he said. “It’s the same feeling around the club: we have our values and Rufus has let us down in that regard.

“We have to focus on what we need to do, which is putting this club in the best position on the rugby field with our conduct and the way we go about our business. Since I’ve been here the guys have been extremely good on and off the field and I appreciate that.

“What’s happened doesn’t represent this team or this club. Absolutely not. We’re all about representing the Warrior Nation, we’re all about honour and playing the best that we can, showing our affection to the club with the way that we play and conduct ourselves. That’s going to be the motto.”

Asked when the disciplinary hearing would be complete, Smith added: “I’m not sure. I know it’s ongoing, but I’m not sure when it’s going to be done. We’re trying to keep the rugby side away from this.”

Smith has made ten changes to his team for tonight’s final Pool A match at Scotstoun, from which the Warriors need only a point to ensure a home draw in the round of 16. Full-back Josh McKay is the only member of the back division to keep his place from last week’s win at Perpignan, while up front last week's man of the match Johnny Matthews, plus Lucio Sordoni, Richie Gray and Euan Ferrie are the four who hold on to their jerseys.

Thirteen players have been listed as unavailable for selection because of injury, among them key forwards such as Fraser Brown, Scott Cummings, Rory Darge and Zander Fagerson. But the Warriors have shown in winning their last seven games between Europe and the URC that they are able to maintain high standards despite heavy squad rotation - something that Smith ascribes in part to improved fitness.

“The main ingredients in our team are enthusiasm, creativity, energy and clarity in how we prepare,” he continued. “Now that everyone is physically improving, we showed against Perpignan last week that the intensity of our play is very good.

“We’re coming towards the end of an 11-game block. From my experience that is sometimes one or two games too far if you don’t have the ability to interchange the squad. When we started here on August 1 the plan was to develop the whole squad, as a good squad makes a very good team. That gives us a platform to be competitive and even grow this snowball to make it even bigger.”

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Glasgow Warriors (v Bath at Scotstoun on Friday 8pm): J McKay; S Cancelliere, S Tuipulotu, H Jones, K Steyn (captain); T Jordan, A Price; J Bhatti, J Mathews, L Sordoni, A Samuel, R Gray, E Ferrie, S Vailanu, M Fagerson. Substitutes: G Turner, N McBeth, S Berghan, J du Preez, L Bean, T Gordon, G Horne, D Weir.

Bath: O Bailey; M Ojomoh, O Lawrence. C Redpath, J Cokanasiga; P Francis, L Schreuder; J Schoeman, T Dunn (captain), J Jonker, W Spencer, F Lee-Warner, T Hill, C Cloete, M Reid. Substitutes: N Annett, V Morozov, D Rae, T Ellis, R de Carpentier, B Spencer, M Gallagher, J Joseph.

Referee: L Ramos (France).

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