NEARLY two months after parting company with Danny Wilson, Glasgow have confirmed that Franco Smith will be his successor as head coach. The South African, who turned 50 last week, will fly into Scotland in the next day or two and then move permanently at the end of the month after tying up the remaining loose ends in his present post as Italian Rugby’s head of high performance.
Smith, who had been the clear front-runner for some time, will work with the existing coaching team at Scotstoun: assistants Nigel Carolan, Pete Murchie, Al Dickinson and Pete Horne. He has agreed a two-year contract.
“I have followed Glasgow for a long time, since coaching at Benetton when they joined the PRO12 in 2010, and the way they play has always appealed to me because their style is embraced by the fans,” he said on the Warriors website.
“In coaching I always have these objectives: to play a winning brand of rugby; to have a style that is good to watch and that the fans can associate with – it is the Warrior Nation’s team, and our responsibility through the coaches and players is to represent them.
“There are also opportunities at Glasgow to contribute to the pathway for up-and-coming players, making sure we are developing creative, fit, and knowledgeable rugby players from a young age that we will bring all the way through to Scotland.
“I am looking forward to joining the club and getting to know the coaching staff and players as we begin working together.”
Born in Lichtenburg in South Africa’s North-West Province, Smith, who could play at centre or stand-off, turned out for the Free State Cheetahs, the Griquas and the Blue Bulls in his homeland before heading to Newport for a season. His introduction to Italian rugby came in 2002 when he joined Benetton and stayed with the club for four seasons.
He hung up his boots in 2006 after a career which saw him win nine Springboks caps, with his debut having come in the 68-10 win over Scotland at Murrayfield in 1997. His first coaching job was as an assistant with the Cheetahs, and he then became Benetton’s head coach, staying for six years.
After a lengthy spell back in South Africa, Smith returned to Italy in 2019 as head coach, initially on an interim basis. He was in charge during two Six Nations campaigns in which the Azzurri failed to win a game, then last year moved upstairs to become head of high performance.
Warriors chief executive Al Kellock said: “We are delighted to be signing a head coach with Franco’s club and international experience to lead our squad in the coming seasons. After an extensive search it was Franco’s depth of knowledge in the game and his experiences at professional club and international levels that stood out. Thank you to the Italian Rugby Federation for their willingness to make this appointment possible.
“I know Franco will bring an exciting identity to our game based on high tempo and hard work, and he will bring the best out of the talented group of players we have at Scotstoun. Franco is also known for developing players from a young age, and with five recent graduates from the FOSROC Academy and a number close behind growing these players remains a key focus for the club.”
Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson, added: “I would like to join Al in welcoming Franco to Scotland and Glasgow Warriors.
“Throughout our recruitment process Franco stood out as a strong technical coach who wants to play positive rugby, which fits with the DNA of Glasgow Warriors and how we want to develop our squad, especially the exciting group of younger players, at Scotstoun.
“Across the game people we consulted spoke very highly of Franco as a coach and a person and we look forward to him taking Glasgow Warriors forward in the coming seasons.”
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