JAMIE DOBIE is facing a three month spell on the sidelines due to an ankle injury he suffered during Glasgow Warriors’ victory over Ospreys last weekend.
The set-back occurred just days after Warriors agreed to release Scotland and Lions scrum-half Ali Price to Edinburgh on loan for the remainder of the season, and leaves head coach Franco Smith with only two senior No 9s in his squad, plus Ben Afshar who is a partnership player with Stirling Wolves Super Series side and is yet to play at pro level.
“Looks like a 12 to 13 or 14 week injury,” revealed Smith earlier today. “Sometimes these things get better around ten weeks, the last four weeks of recovery are always the difficult ones … so we anticipate a little bit longer up to 14 weeks I suppose.”
Smith acknowledged that he now needs to find cover for George Horne, Sean Kennedy and Afshar, but promised that he won’t be rushed into recruiting the first available scrum-half. He also indicated that bringing Price back from Edinburgh is not an option being actively pursued at this stage.
“I don’t think the reasons have changed as to why he [Price] has gone to Edinburgh. Obviously, we would have had discussions from the start round the situation. Currently that is not going to be the case,” said the South African coach.
“I said last week we will bridge that river [of adding depth at scrum-half] when it appears so we will start looking but as I said to the decision-makers here, we are not going to take anyone, we will take the right person. We are now in the position of having a look but I have 100 percent confidence in the players we have got to keep the ball running.
“With George and the Six Nations, we are well aware of the problem. We are busy looking. I don’t want to say too much but we will allow the young guys and Sean to get their opportunity so let’s see and how things develop, but obviously we are aware of the problem.”
Smith got slightly shirty when quizzed about the peculiar situation regarding Duncan Weir‘s three game suspension for a high tackle last week, that will be reduced to two games if he completes a World Rugby Coaching Intervention Programme. That means he misses this weekend’s home game against Benetton and next Friday night’s previously unannounced friendly between Glasgow Warriors ‘A’ and Edinburgh ‘A’, but will be available for the following day’s URC match against Ulster.
It seems far-fetched that 32-year-old veteran would play in what is effectively a mid-season in-house match for fringe players at Scottish Rugby’s two pro teams and then a league match for his pro team the following day, but Smith argued – with some merit – that the buck does not stop with Glasgow Warriors when it comes to some of the baffling decisions we see in the player disciplinary process.
“The ‘A’ game is important and is acknowledged by World Rugby so they took that into consideration,” he said. “Basically it was six weeks, halved for good behaviour and because of the rugby tackle programme you can get another week deducted which makes it two games, it is all about missing games, not weeks. We have this game and the Friday afternoon game against Edinburgh A so he is available for next week.
“If you look at our track record you can see that we have played players as 24th man against Edinburgh on the Friday and they were involved in the warm-up with the idea that if something happens they can play. We see these games as a chance for some to get more minutes under their belt but it doesn’t mean they couldn’t have taken part in the game.
“This is not our system. It is World Rugby’s system. Any criticism should go to them, not to us. We didn’t try anything. We showed them the games that we are going to play and they decided which games he should miss. It was referred to World Rugby, it wasn’t something we or URC decided. For me, they determined what games he should miss, not us. We produced the games he can qualify for. And if he can qualify to play for, in example, in Super 6 game as happened with Tom Jordan before, then if he’s eligible to play [in the A game] then that’s a priority game that he’s missed. It’s nothing to do with us. It’s not the way we presented our case either. We just present the number games and they pick the game he can’t play, so it was nothing to do with Glasgow Warriors.”
On a lighter note, Smith congratulated Max Williamson on his call-up to the squad, with the 21-year-old second-row set to make his competitive debut off the bench.
“That’s a nice positive one because we’ve now used 38 or 39 players in our squad and everyone gets a chance to contribute when we can see their growth,” he said. “Max has put up his hand for a lot of responsibility in pre-season. Unfortunately he got knocked out against Ulster and then fell on his knee in his return to play which kept him off.
“Then he had a reset period. But we’re excited to have him for this game. He’s merited his chance after showing good progression and good actions already in pre-season. I’m excited to have him and to see if he can make the next step. I believe that is an important part, the growth and the development of the players here. That’s as important as any result. I’m proud of the young man who has worked really hard.”