Franco Smith signs new Glasgow Warriors deal and outlines plan for silverware and developing talent
The South African enjoyed an impressive first season in charge which he described as “a stepping stone” and said he would now strive to build on it by winning silverware and developing players for both Glasgow and Scotland. Smith, 51, joined last summer from the Italian Rugby Federation where he had served as head of high performance since 2021, and previously as Italy head coach. He guided Glasgow to a fourth-place finish in the United Rugby Championship and the final of the EPCR Challenge Cup after initially arriving on a two-year contract. His new deal commits him to the Warriors until summer 2026.
“The people, both at this club and in this city, have been fantastic since I arrived last summer,” said Smith who was voted BKT URC coach of the season. “I didn’t take it lightly, as I’m not the sort of person that likes to look too far ahead into the future – I’ve learnt from experience that life never tends to pan out that way if you do. I feel like I can add value to Glasgow rugby and to Scottish rugby – winning silverware and competing at the top end of each competition is always a priority for us, but if we can bring players through and develop them to be competitive for club and country then we will only be in a stronger position.”
Smith, a former South Africa international, had Glasgow playing a brand of muscular, entertaining rugby last season which yielded some impressive results after a tricky start. Having seen both their pre-season games cancelled, the Warriors lost four of their first seven matches in the URC, all of them away from home. Winning on the road had been a problem that had blighted the club for some time but a victory over Zebre in Parma proved to be a turning point and Glasgow went on to lose only one more regular season game. They beat Edinburgh home and away to regain the 1872 Cup then defeated defending URC champions the Stormers at Scotstoun. Finishing fourth meant they won the Scottish-Italian Shield and set up a home quarter-final in the URC play-offs which they lost to eventual winners Munster. They also reached the first European final in the club’s history but Toulon proved too strong for them in Dublin. While the season ended on a disappointing note, Glasgow still qualified for this season’s Champions Cup and will play Northampton, Bayonne, Exeter and Toulon.
While he will be judged ultimately on what Glasgow do on the pitch, Smith has never shied away from talking about the bigger picture and he spoke with a missionary zeal about trying to elevate the club’s position in the city, no mean task given the all-pervading influence of Celtic and Rangers.
“The community of this city was a big factor in my decision, too – I like to walk around Glasgow on my days off and get to know the city that way, as I like to understand how the wheel turns here and how people think about things,” Smith told the Glasgow Warriors website. “Rugby is just a vehicle to influence people’s lives, and I want to give as much of myself to this club and this city as I can. Glasgow is a vibrant city full of opportunities, and I’m excited to be a part of it. We want to move the boundaries and expectations of what we can achieve as a group, and that’s as much a mental demand as it is a physical one. We’ve now established ourselves, but we’re by no means the complete product yet. Last season was a stepping stone and the start of our journey – now it’s about how our players react to what we ask them to do next.”
The new URC season won’t start until next month because of the Rugby World Cup, with Glasgow’s first league game scheduled for October 22 against Leinster at Scotstoun. Before that they will play two pre-season friendlies, against Zebre at home on September 30 and Ulster away on October 7.
Al Kellock, the Glasgow Warriors managing director, said Smith was in tune with the club’s ambitions to be “world class”.
“From day one, Franco understood not only the culture of our club, but what it means to be a Glasgow Warrior,” said Kellock, the last Glasgow captain to lift a major trophy. “He fully buys into our desire to make this a world-class environment both on and off the field, and the results last season were a reflection of the efforts that went in across the board. More than that, though, Franco’s drive to ensure our players are committed to social engagement across the city made this decision easy for us – one of our club’s primary values is to inspire our community, and Franco embodies that day in, day out.”
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