URC – “Winning Is Important, But …..” – Franco Smith

 

When Franco Smith took over at Glasgow Warriors, the first thing he did was set high standards. And in his second season now, he still believes the team has more to offer.

Making the EPCR Challenge Cup final in his first season was a bonus, but when they take the field on Saturday against the Vodacom Bulls, Smith’s charges have the opportunity to bring glory back to the Scottish city and crown a season where they have surpassed expectations.

But even if that happens, Smith has not completed what he started at Glasgow.

Taking over without his own coaching squad, and accepting the club’s recommendation of Kyle Steyn as captain, Smith has crafted a winning culture that echoes his work first as national coach of Italy, and then High Performance Director - successes that have been seen with Benetton and Italy this season.

Glasgow are a formidable side since he has taken over and have created a style of play that can tear any team apart on the outside, while their forwards have the best driving maul in the competition.

“We started last year and the idea was to create the right culture and to bring young Scottish players through to make them the best that they can be. Obviously I came from a performance director and a national head coach perspective in the club so the idea was always to set the standards really really high when they needed it,” he explained.

“Those were the objectives. Last year we won a lot of games - 10 in a row - and that created a lot of expectations. A lot of my time last year went into managing those expectations. We have a lot of players that became available for Scotland and with the World Cup and Six Nations it wasn’t ideal and their involvement in Scottish rugby came at an important time for us as well. It was in the middle of the Champions Cup campaign.

“There were a lot of challenges this season, trying to keep the enthusiasm and creativity, blend in the younger players and use as many of the squad as possible, because it is now a fact that you need more than 40 players to be competitive in both competitions. If that is the dream to be competitive in both competitions and to win some silverware at the back end - that is the dream of all coaching programmes.”

Smith is happy with the success the team has had, but wants them to be more, both on and off the field.

“We’ve seen growth, we’ve seen player development, we’ve seen established players getting better and applying themselves at test level. The competition in the squad has grown. The young academy boys have stepped up and four or five of them have made their debuts this season.

“There is a good platform established around the club in general. Again it is not only the rugby growth, but holistic growth that is important to me. We try to make rugby heroes in Glasgow. Rangers and Celtic dominate the culture in Glasgow and with the help of the club, the management, and the players to bring a different culture and a different hero to the city, is important.

“Yes we want to win and winning is important, but we have a bigger plan to influence people’s lives in the best way we can.”

And if he can get that right, then the platform he created and the journey he has the team on will be completed.