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The post-game Richie Gray question that riled up Franco Smith

By Liam Heagney
Glasgow were left beaten and dejected on Friday night (Photo by Anne Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images)

Franco Smith was in combative mode post-game on Friday night in Dublin. His Glasgow has just been skittled in a disappointingly one-sided European Challenge Cup final and recrimination hung in the air – as always seems to be the case whenever the Warriors play in these parts.


Just 11 months ago, Glasgow were trounced a short stroll away from the Aviva Stadium at the RDS, the embarrassing 76-14 shellacking by Leinster in a URC quarter-final marking the end for coach Danny Wilson who was sacked a few days later.

Smith will have left the Irish capital with far more certainty about his position given he had just completed year one in a long-term project and has been green-lighted to continue on with year two.

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However, there were far better ways to lose an important rugby match than falling 0-21 behind in the early stages of a showpiece fixture with a rickety lineout.

Three consolation tries in an 18-minute second-half spell wasn’t going to be enough to gloss over the wounding 19-43 defeat and the South African got it in the neck not long after full-time when quizzed if he had got his team selection all wrong.


For reasons still best known to himself, Smith left Richie Gray, Scotland’s first-choice lineout operator, stewing on the bench until the 66th minute – far too late to remedy the dubious set-piece calamity that had unfolded.

Poorly executed Glasgow lineouts thrown by Fraser Brown, the veteran preferred at hooker to George Turner, was the genesis for two of the three early tries that had Toulon galivanting towards the trophy, 21 points up with just 25 minutes played.


The French side would have had another score early in the second half had referee Wayne Barnes not stepped in to rule out for offside the intercept try for Charles Ollivon after he pounced on sub Johnny Matthews’ sloppy error.

It was painful action that unfolded with Turner, Scotland’s first-choice hooker, not selected in the matchday 23 even though he was fit and available.

Smith, though, wasn’t entertaining any criticism when specifically asked if he thought Gray could have made a difference if he had been included from the start in the second row. The retort was spiky.

“Everyone’s got an opinion on that. I could have picked 15 other guys and everyone would have been complaining. We made the decision with the information that we had.


“I think the players we picked deserved the opportunity. There was a specific plan to it and that was that so yeah, it’s unfair to say we have picked the wrong team.”

When the media conference was all said and done, you went away wondering if Glasgow genuinely have the long-term determination to become a major trophy-winning threat rather than an also-ran operation given that it was just 13 days earlier when they blew a home URC semi-final against Munster.


“It’s one thing to play your way into a final, it’s another skill to win a final,” reckoned Smith, searching for a straw to clutch after a season that promised much petered out into nothing. “Toulon, (it was) their fifth chance to go at it. It doesn’t come overnight. I think we will take a lot of learnings. We were unfortunate against Munster.

“The semi-final against Scarlets gave them a little bit of film to ask questions of us and then leading into this match we have a week off. It’s tough to compete on two fronts. For tonight I am going to celebrate what was good before these two games instead of on the last two results.

“I said in the press conference (on Thursday) this is not the end for us, this is just the start. We obviously wanted to win this and that would have been the perfect circumstance going forward, but we will look at every area of our game.”


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