FRANCO SMITH lost zero minutes of sleep over his Glasgow Warriors team losing for the first time since late November when they went down 35-24 to the Lions in Johannesburg last Saturday.

In fact, a little bit of him thinks that it might have been a blessing in disguise if it helps them recalibrate as they enter the business end of

the season.

“We hadn’t lost in 10 games and I think that became a little bit of a burden,” Smith said. “You start thinking of not losing rather than playing to win, so I think maybe there was a lesson learned from that.

“We don’t have to lose to learn, but sometimes this can happen for a young group who aren’t used to winning as many consecutive games, and better now than later in the season because the games keep getting more and more important as we move forward.

“Nothing is broken,” he added. “We played some good rugby [against the Lions], and, in fact, I think we surprised ourselves in the second part of the game when we weren’t as tired as everyone thought we would be because of the heat and the height above sea level.

“We were disappointed, and the players most of all when I showed them this week what we left out there. So, we weren’t beaten, we just lost – we were just a little bit off it and hopefully we can rectify that this week.”

Warriors can bounce back when they take-on a Zebre team yet to taste victory in this United Rugby Championship campaign at Scotstoun tonight, and they are boosted by the release of four Scotland squad members.

Scrum-half George and full-back Ollie Smith (who both travelled to Paris last weekend as back-up to Scotland’s match-day 23) come in at scrum-half and full-back, respectively, with Jamie Dobie dropping to the bench and Josh McKay switching to the wing.

Loose-head prop Jamie Bhatti and hooker Fraser Brown will both look to make an impact off the bench (having fulfilled a similar role for the national team against France last weekend).

Meanwhile, 12-times capped Oli Kebble also named on the bench having recovered from a shoulder injury which has kept him out since early December. He follows in the footsteps of Rory Darge, Scott Cummings and Allan Dell, who all start tonight after returning from lengthy layoffs during the past fortnight.

“Having some of the Scottish guys coming back is obviously a big help in an important part of the season,” said Smith. “They played and travelled on Sunday which gave us one day less with them, but they are all very excited to play and to contribute. That’s the main thing – the fact that the Scottish players coming back into our environment want to contribute, they don’t come to [just] participate, they don’t drive their own agendas, they are absolutely here to help the squad win and I appreciate that a lot.”

Smith is expecting more good news on the injury front with Ryan Wilson and Sebastian Cancelliere (both knee) expected to come back in contention ahead of Warriors’ next URC match away to Munster on March 25. However, he was slightly more cautious on the prospect of the bulging disc in Murphy Walker’s neck being sorted in time for that trip to Limerick.

“The recent report at the beginning of the week was not so positive yet,” said Smith. “He’s allowed to do a lot more, we’re starting to build-up his scrum-time and do a bit more contact, but it is still very controlled. We don’t want to go back and reset everything, so we’ve just got to take the process as it comes. We are going to need him towards the end of the season so on doctor’s advice at this stage he can participate a little bit more and build up his contact with regard to scrum, tackle and maul, so he’s not training fully with us yet.”

As for this weekend’s game, Cummings has been switched from his usual second-row slot to blindside flanker.

“From his own playing perspective, that adds a lot of value for him,” said Smith. “He moves really well as a lock, and it gives us another line-out target this week. Once Richie Gray is back from Scotland and Sintu Manjezi is back from injury, this will be another option for us, and it’s something we are keen to develop.”