Glasgow Warriors head coach Franco Smith believes that his cautious approach towards recuperating Scott Cummings will benefit the player and therefore his team when the international second-row makes his comeback after three and a half months out with a broken toe against Ulster at Scotstoun tonight.

“He could have been ready a little bit earlier, but I wanted to make sure he got some proper contact training,” explained Smith. “It’s important to get the guys back when they are ready to perform properly, not just back to play.

“It is the same for guys like Rory Darge and Oli Kebble, who will come back in the next couple of weeks,” the South African added. “It’s important that they are properly prepared and confident because it’s tough when you are coming back from longer-term injury.”

As Warriors return to action after a three-week break, looking to build on the momentum generated through a 10-match unbeaten streak leading into this Six Nations window, Smith has named seven players in his match-day 23 who have been released from Scotland’s training squad.

Centre and captain Stafford McDowall, full-back Ollie Smith and No.8 Jack Dempsey all start, while props Jamie Bhatti and Simon Berghan, hooker Fraser Brown and scrum-half Ali Price are on the bench.

Price began this season as Scotland’s first choice No.9 but a lack of game time under Smith at club level has led to the 2021 British and Irish Lion falling behind Ben White of London Irish and Warriors team-mate George Horne in the international pecking order, and he will be frustrated that he hasn’t been given a chance to push his case from the start against Ulster. However, Smith has opted to go with 21-year-old Jamie Dobie, with one eye on the team’s re-arranged fixture away to the Lions, which has been scheduled for next weekend meaning that it clashes with Scotland’s trip to Paris to take on France.

“Jamie is a huge talent and is still young, so he’s definitely got a bright future ahead of him,” said the coach. “It’s fantastic for him to have a guy like Ali Price there to learn from, and for us to have Ali to come on and make an impact this week

“Jamie is definitely the future of Scottish rugby, I reckon, and we want him to grow in confidence and to really impose himself on the game. The more time he spends on the pitch for us, the better he will become.”

“Ali started against the Dragons [in Glasgow’s last game], but we worked well in training last week and I want to have a little bit of continuity with the fact that we will not have George or Ali available for next week,” Smith continued.

“Apart from the fact that Jamie played really well against the Dragons during the second half of the game, it is also between him and Sean Kennedy at scrum-half when we get to South Africa. I always had a plan in terms of how we’d manage the players during this period, and we’ve not had many injuries in that regard, so it’s worked out well.”

Both Dobie and Price should draw extra personal motivation for this match from the presence of potential Scotland rival John Cooney as replacement scrum-half for Ulster. The 32-year-old picked up the last of his 11 caps for Ireland on 23rd February 2020, meaning that he will be allowed to switch allegiance next Thursday through World Rugby’s controversial new eligibility protocols. The rule allows capped players to move country so long as there is “a close and credible link via birthright” and they complete a three-year stand-down period from international rugby.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has discussed a potential switch with Cooney, whose father is from Blantyre in South Lanarkshire, and he has refused to rule out calling up the player during the second half of this year’s Six Nations campaign.

Ulster are currently third in the URC table, while Glasgow are four league points behind in fifth place.

Meanwhile, Blade Thomson, the 32-year-old former Scotland back-rower, has announced his retirement from rugby following a head injury.

New Zealand-born Thomson represented the All Blacks at under-20s level, before moving north to join Scarlets in 2018. He qualified for Scotland through his grandfather and made his international debut at the 2019 World Cup, going on to gain 10 caps in total.