WITH A host of players absent either because of Scotland duty or through injury, Franco Smith has had to select a very different Glasgow side for this evening’s URC match against Benetton. But instead of feeling at all dispirited by the lengthy list of absentees, the Warriors head coach insisted last night that the need to test the depth of his squad would benefit the team in the longer run.

Ten Glasgow players are in Gregor Townsend’s squad of 23 for tomorrow’s Test match against Australia, while Richie Gray has been retained by the national coach and Scott Cummings broke a toe earlier this week while training with Scotland. In addition, eight others are currently on the treatment table.

Murphy Walker has been released by Scotland and will start at tighthead, but there is no denying that Smith has been confronted with a daunting list of unavailable players ahead of the final match before the URC takes a three-week break during the Autumn Nations Series. Yet, perhaps in part because he has served as Italy’s national coach so can see the situation from the other side of the fence, Smith is pretty sanguine about the difficult situation he faces.

“We’ve worked the whole season knowing this situation will arise,” the South African said after announcing his squad for the match at Scotstoun. “The future of the club lies in using the full squad. We can’t always depend on the Scottish players out there.

“This must be our way of thinking going forward: to utilise the full squad. Depending on 25 guys a season won’t work. In my experience in this competition you need a squad of 50: you need three players in every row with the ability to perform at this level.

“A year and a half ago I was asking for these players to be released, so I understand 100 per cent. It’s important for us to develop every player here. Our objective is also to develop players for after the 2023 World Cup for Scotland: the next generation of players is going to come through at Glasgow and Edinburgh, and I think we as coaches have a responsibility to bring those players through.”

Only three players who started the Warriors’ last game – the 40-12 defeat by the Sharks in Durban – will also begin this evening’s match against the Italians. And even then only one of the trio – lock forward Sintu Manjezi - will play in the same position. Ryan Wilson moves from No.8 to blindside, while Josh McKay is at full-back instead of on the wing.

The former Scotland Under-20 captain Alex Samuel will make his debut from the start alongside Manjezi in the second row, while another highly-promising lock, Euan Ferrie, is poised to make his first appearance off the bench. Behind the pack, meanwhile, there is a first outing of the season for scrum-half Jamie Dobie.

Glasgow have won two and lost three of their five league matches so far, so a win this evening would at least give them a 50-50 record to take into the break. “It will be exceptional if we can play to our strengths and get the win,” Smith added. “It would be fantastic.

“We have to stick to what we want to do with this other group of players and to how we want to go about our business. That’s going to be very important.

“There’s been a little bit of finding our feet in situations and growing as a group.

“But the excitement and hunger and willingness to become better, and everyone’s willingness to be seen on the field, is something that will be important to us.”


Glasgow Warriors (v Benetton at Scotstoun, tonight 7.35pm): J McKay; S Cancelliere, K Steyn (captain), S McDowall, R McLean; D Miotti, J Dobie; O Kebble, F Brown, M Walker, S Manjezi, A Samuel, R Wilson, G Brown, S Vailamu. Substitutes: J Matthews, N McBeth, S Berghan, JP du Preez, L Bean, E Ferrie, S Kennedy, T Jordan. 

Benetton: R Smith; I Mendy, J Riera, M Zanon, M Bellini; G da Re, D Duvenage (captain), N Tetaz, F Zani, T Pasquali, S Scrafton, C Wegner, G Pettinelli, S Negri, H Time-Stowers. Substitutes:  M Arroyo, T Gallo, F Alongi, M Lazzaroni, A Steyn, A Izekor, A Garbisi, M Watson.

Referee: C Evans (Wales).