FRANCO SMITH says he has the option of selecting all his Scotland players for Saturday’s clash against Leinster in Dublin – but he is likely to rest the likes of tight-head prop Zander Fagerson, scrum-half Ali Price and back-rower Matt Fagerson who started all four of the national team’s Autumn Test Series matches.
Jack Dempsey, Sione Tuipulotu, Fraser Brown and George Turner are among the other leading names who could also be given the weekend off.
“We’ll obviously look to manage the players and be smart about that, but they are all available,” said the head coach. “Common sense must prevail at this stage and after the team announcement I’ll maybe have more to say around that.
“But the club must go forward and there must be growth and there must be responsibility shared if we want to become a great club in Europe. We’ve got a long-term mission and a vision which involves winning every match we play so our eyes are never off that objective.
“We’ve used more than 40 players already this season and they [some of the fringe players] proved against Benetton that they can play at this level, so we must keep on creating competition to get the best out of everybody while at the same time winning remains the primary objective.”
Warriors announced earlier today [Monday] that centre Sam Johnson, (broken jaw) utility-back Huw Jones (back) and back-row Ally Miller (also back) have returned to training after injury – although they are not expected to feature this weekend.
“Sam is still a little bit away from contact, but they are both running well and they are in good shape physically,” said Smith. “They have trimmed down and they are looking strong and ready. It is good to see them out on the training pitch with us. It is an important period, so it is good to have that extra competition.
“We wanted Huw to play the ‘A’ team game last week but he pulled up short, so we are just wanting to give him some proper training time on the pitch, and we’ll see how we can make him part of the team going forward.”
Smith was tight-lipped about which position he sees Jones – who came to prominence as an outside-centre but was then moved to full-back during the 2020-21 season before spending a year with Harlequins – playing.
“The fact he has played different positions means it might be where the opportunity presents, but we’ve got an idea where we want to use him,” said Smith. “Unfortunately you will have to wait a little bit to find out what the plan is for him.”
The news wasn’t as positive for Argentinean tight-head prop Enrique Pieretto, who hasn’t played yet this season due to a shoulder injury. He has now undergone surgery and will be out of action for the remainder of this season.
The medical update also confirmed that second-row Scott Cummings has had surgery on the broken toe which kept him it the Autumn Test series and won’t play again until the New Year.
Back-row Ryan Wilson is being assessed and monitored on a knee injury sustained against Benetton, while Duncan Weir has a minor calf injury and is expected to be unavailable for the club’s two upcoming URC matches and his fellow fly-half Domingo Miotti will miss this weekend’s game with a minor knee strain.
Meanwhile, recent back-row signing Cameron Neild and prop Nathan McBeth have begun to work through the return to play protocols after sustaining head injuries while playing in the club’s training game against Edinburgh last week.
Allan Dell (calf), Thomas Gordon (calf) and Rory Darge (ankle) all continue their rehabilitation for their respective long-term injuries.
“I feel very sorry for Enrique,” said Smith. “He’s tried really hard to get back into shape and wants to contribute. Unfortunately, if you are injured you are not around the boys every day like you want to be, but we’ll engage him. It is a difficult time in his career so we must help him see the positives.
“With Scott, the disappointment was more for him than us because he was just coming back from injury and was in good for, but there is still a lot of time and I think he will be back for the last part of the season where we’ll probably need him most.”
The last time Glasgow visited Dublin was a horror show, with Warriors suffering a 76-14 mauling in last season’s URC play-offs which ultimately coast Danny Wilson his job as head coach. Smith insisted that the history of this match was of no interest to him.
“I had nothing to do with that, so I am definitely not talking about that,” he said. “We are focussing on our own performance. We need to repeat what we have been doing at Scotstoun away from home, so it is important that we concentrate on what we can do.”