Franco Smith rolled his eyes when asked once again about his habit of making wholesale changes to his starting XV on a weekly basis. Traditional rugby logic is that continuity in selection is an underlying principle for producing successful teams, but the wily South African doesn’t subscribe to that thesis.

He has added 10 new faces and made one positional alteration to the side he sent out against the Lions last weekend ahead of tonight’s clash against the Scarlets.

In the four selections he has made since the end of this year’s Six Nations, Smith has made 33 changes in total to his starting XV, and he is clearly getting bored of being asked to explain his thought process.

“I’ve been seeing some people writing that we’re on a merry-go-round with selection – but that’s not really what it is,” he snapped. “There’s a plan behind everything and the way we have gone about our business this year.

“I think most of this team played when we beat Munster a few weeks ago away from home, so this is not about just picking randomly. We need to keep the freshness in the team, because it’s late in the season and we know that a lot of rugby has been played. 

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“We want to be prepared for every final that might be ahead of us, and that means making sure we have the whole squad ready to go if called upon.”

Smith didn’t have any choice about not selecting four leading Scotland internationals who are all injured this week, but he expects George Horne, George Turner, Jack Dempsey and Sione Tuipulotu to be back in contention in time for the Scarlets re-match.

“They’ve all got little niggles that come through the season. But, hopefully, in a couple of weeks we can freshen them up and help them recover. 

“It’s nothing overly serious, but obviously I want to try and keep my cards closer and closer to my chest. 

“Everybody outside of Glasgow is becoming more and more interested in us now and what team we can put out.”

Smith’s side are hunting a win which will book them a home draw in the URC play-offs, and this match will also be an opportunity to lay down a marker ahead of facing the same Welsh opponents in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup in a fortnight’s time.

“The players we put out on the field must do a job. We don’t take a risk. We give responsibility to the team,” he continued. “You can just imagine how much Stafford McDowall and Sam Johnson want to contribute this week. The same with Sione Vailanu, Fraser Brown, and Ali Price as well. 

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“There’s still places up for grabs for the knock-out stage of the season. We are clear in our own mind about what we’re doing and where we’re heading. In this game, we need to play to our strengths.

“I’ve prepared for many derbies and big games in my life, when you know you’re going to play against the same team twice, and there are ways to manage it, so nothing will come as a surprise for us over these next couple of weeks. 

“We still have this week and next week to get better at what we do so that the product we roll out in the finals are a well-rehearsed and well-prepared plan.

Ryan Wilson will wear the No 6 jersey after it was announced that he will leave the club in the summer after 13 seasons of service to the club, and his experience could help settle some frayed nerves which became apparent as Warriors made heavy weather of beating Lions in last weekend’s Challenge Cup quarter-final.

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“When we watched it back, we could see that it was about not sticking to our processes under pressure,” concluded Smith. “Earlier in the season, we have handled the pressure well and last week was the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves of how important it is to do that.

“So, they were easily fixable things, and another arrow in our quiver to take into the next high-pressure match.

“And our objectives go beyond this season, they go into next season as well, and they are to keep improving in the direction we want to head in because we are still well off where we want to go.”


Glasgow Warriors (v Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday @ 5.15pm UK time) O Smith; C Forbes, S McDowall (c), S Johnson, J Dobie; D Miotti, A Price; N McBeth, F Brown, Z Fagerson, J Du Preez, S Cummings, M Fagerson, R Darge, S Vailanu, J. Substitutes J Matthews, A Dell, L Sordoni, L Bean,  A Samuel, G Brown, T Gordon, G Horne, T Jordan.

Munster M Haley; C Nash, M Fekitoa, J Crowley, S Daly; J Carbery, P Patterson; D Kilcoyne, D Barron, R Salanoa, Jean Kleyn, F Wycherley, J O’Donoghue (c), J Hodnett, G Coombes. Substitutes S Buckley, J Wycherley, S Archer, R Snyman, A Kendellen, C Casey, R Scannell, S Zebo.