STAFFORD McDOWALL has explained that Franco Smith’s philosophy to rugby revolves around liberating the team’s attack, and he is hoping the new head coach can provide the impetus to get his career back moving in the right direction after two seasons of limited game time under Danny Wilson.
The centre was 19-years-old when he first broke into the Warriors side at the start of the 2017-18 season, and 2018-19 was his best campaign for the club with 12 appearances (11 starts) including 80 minutes against Saracens in the Champions Cup quarter-final. But he has struggled since then to command a regular place in the starting fifteen, and during the last two seasons under Danny Wilson he managed just eight starts in total. Now aged 24, McDowall knows that this needs to be a big year, both personally and for the club after a catastrophic collapse at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.
“The goal is to be a regular pick throughout the season,” he said. ““I like to think I’m a pretty good pro and can achieve that. I’ve got to improve and get better to get that but it’s a good thing for me to have a new coach come in with fresh ideas and a fresh look at players. It gives me a fresh start and if I get my head down and work hard then, hopefully, I’ll kick on.
“There is a lot more emphasis now on the attacking brand of rugby that we are looking to play,” he added. “Franco calls it liberation – so we are being let free to attack and express ourselves a little bit more.
“We’re looking to play on the front foot and spread the ball wide off turnovers, looking at the turnover as another set-piece and getting momentum off that.
“I know that is something Nigel Carolan [attack coach] has been working on as well. He is great at that and brings in a lot of ideas that we hopefully see come to fruition within the next few weeks.”
Glasgow have their first pre-season hit-out coming up on Friday night against Worcester in Inverness. The English Premiership side have been served a winding-up petition by HMRC over unpaid tax bill which is believed to total £6m, but McDowall says he doesn’t expect that to detract from the visiting team’s focus.
“It’s a Premiership rugby team so they are a high-quality outfit,” he reasoned. “They are physical and have marquee players, including Scottish and English internationals, and they have a sprinkling of foreigners as well who add something.
“A couple of our players – Duncan Weir and Sione Vailanu – have played there and they only say good things about the squad, so we know it is going to be a tough challenge.
“We’re all massively looking forward to it. One of our mantras here is ‘Inspire the Community’ and Inverness is part of the Glasgow Warriors community. The players are really excited. Some of the boys haven’t been up to the Highlands and seen how nice it is up there with different countryside and maybe a different culture to what they’re used to here.”
Away from the sightseeing, there is likely to be more of an edge to this game than we are used to in pre-season matches because it is the team’s first outing since their humiliating 76-14 drubbing by Leinster at the start of June.
“We have used it in the right way,” stressed McDowall. “We have not let it hang over us or dwelled on the past, but we also know that is not a representation of Glasgow Warriors or what we as a group are about.
“So, we have used it as the right kind of fuel to drive us on through some dark times in pre-season and it has been mentioned a couple of times, but it has not been over-bearing on us in the way that we have not been allowed to forget about it.”