Franco Smith downplays prospect of Scotland switch

Glasgow Warriors head coach insists his focus is wholly on maintaining progress at Scotstoun after suggestions he could succeed Gregor Townsend in 2026

Franco Smith's 'dad joke' will keep Glasgow Warriors focussed, says No 8 Jack Dempsey Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Franco Smith has insisted he will not be distracted by speculation that he could in time succeed Gregor Townsend as Scotland's head coach. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk.

SPECULATION that Franco Smith could in time take over as head coach of Scotland is at best premature, according to the man himself.

The 51-year-old South African signed a new three-year deal with Glasgow Warriors earlier this week, meaning he is now under contract as the team’s head coach until the summer of 2026. Current Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend is also contracted until 2026, a fact that led to suggestions on social media that the timing of Smith’s deal could mean a smooth transition from Scotstoun to Murrayfield for him.

However, recalling that some of those now praising him after a successful first season with the Warriors were among those who were unimpressed by his initial appointment, Smith insisted he had no intention of looking as far ahead as 2026.

“A year ago they were all crying when they signed me, so I’m not going to read much into that,” he said yesterday. “Also I don’t like looking ahead that far. 

“It’s already a long way – I signed a long-term deal with Italy [first as national head coach and then as the federation’s head of high performance] and I never got to the end of that. So we’ll take it one year at a time from now. 

“The club invested a lot of time and effort last year in making this group competitive and now that is going to be the next step, to have significant success. I’m not thinking too much beyond that.”

Smith’s new contract was a reward for a debut season in which he led the Warriors to their first ever Challenge Cup final and also took them to the URC play-offs. He believes that those relative successes mean that Glasgow will now be seen as a major scalp by opponents in the coming season.

“I definitely feel they’ll come out all guns blazing against us,” he continued. “The top four teams are always in the scope of everybody in the year after and that’s where we sat, therefore it would be ignorant of us not to think that other teams will take great joy in beating us. We have to prepare for that from the start.”

Smith also revealed that second-row forward JP du Preez will miss the start of the season because of an injury sustained in training. The Warriors have yet to determine the precise length of Du Preez’s absence, but, with Scott Cummings and Richie Gray currently away on World Cup duty and Lewis Bean having left for French club Montauban, the Warriors have restricted options at lock. However, Smith appears confident he has adequate cover within his squad, especially in the shape of young Scottish talent Max Williamson and Alex Samuel.

“JP is a big loss in that area of the game, given who left the club and with Scotty and Richie not with us,” he said. “There’s a good opportunity from my side to see what Max Williamson and Alex Samuel can bring for us. It will be good to see a couple of young guys in that role, although JP had looked in excellent form. Sintu Manjezi should be ready soon as well, so we should have enough players.”

About Stuart Bathgate 1438 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.