FRANCO SMITH likes to talk about his “big picture” vision for Scottish rugby and Allan Dell reckons evidence of his countryman’s previous work will be presented when Benetton are in town on Saturday evening.
Smith arrived at Scotstoun in the summer of 2022 after a three year stint in Italy, serving initially as head coach of their national team before moving upstairs into a development role in charge of high performance.
The South African’s focus now is on improving Glasgow Warriors’ lot but he will surely take an element of pride at seeing Benetton arriving at Scotstoun as the only undefeated side left in the United Rugby Championship, and Zebre having got the monkey off their backs with a long-awaited victory over Sharks.
And Dell, the Glasgow loosehead, believes Smith ought to take credit for this Italian rugby renaissance.
“Look, he’s a good coach,” said Dell. “There’s that tough love but at the same time he lets you go out and express yourself. And you have to have a vision. You can’t just be thinking, ‘let’s do this and whatever happens, happens’. You’re probably not going to end up in the right place. What’s that saying, ‘if you don’t know to which port you are sailing then no wind is favourable’?
“If you’ve got no vision then how are you going to measure success and how are you going to improve? Look at Treviso and Italy at the moment. There are a lot of good young players coming through and look how well both their sides are doing.
“It’s no coincidence that Franco played a part in a lot of the young guys coming through. He came in and established a vision and a pathway and they are reaping the benefits of that.
“He wants people to buy in. He’s not selling you anything but he wants you to come on the journey that he envisions and he wants you to be part of it.
“And before rugby, he wants you to be the best human individual you can, and then you contribute that to the rugby side because happy people will make good rugby players.
“I think the way we play rugby is physically demanding but when the guys are happy and expressing themselves they are playing their best rugby. Franco’s a good coach, he’s had great success and he’s been rewarded with a longer contract and I’m really happy for him.”
Dell has had a frustrating time with injuries after signing for Glasgow around the same time as Smith but expresses his gratitude that he chose not to take the offer of an additional year’s deal with London Irish given their subsequent financial implosion.
“I had a plus one [contract] with Irish before that last season but luckily I didn’t take it,” he revealed. “I did consider [staying] as financially it was a lot higher than what was available here. But I thought that if I stayed another year there then I wouldn’t enjoy it if I wasn’t playing.
“I decided to come back to Scotland and play. I came in on a one-year deal and wanted to establish myself but then I got those back-to-back injuries that ruled me out for three-quarters of the season. But, thankfully, Glasgow saw the hard work I was putting in and the quality that I’ve got so they offered me another year. Now hopefully this season I can establish myself and look to push to stay longer.”
A return to the Scotland fold for the first time since March 2022 is also in Dell’s thoughts.
“I’m not looking that far ahead just now,” he added. “But if you talk about the bigger picture then you want to play at the highest level that you can.
“If that means I can produce the level that Scotland wants from me then I’d love that. But right now it’s about getting consistently on the field for Glasgow. That’s my next target.”