Away games don’t come any tougher than travelling to Cork to face reigning URC champions Munster but Glasgow Warriors will be empowered by recent history. 

The Warriors recorded a famous win against the Ireland giants on their home turf last season as they produced a heroic display, but Munster, ultimately, inflicted revenge in the URC quarter-finals at Scotstoun. 

Victory over Ulster last weekend moved Glasgow top on the table with a thrilling comeback but they have been dealt a major blow ahead of tonight. Franco Smith has become synonymous with surprise team selections to keep the opposition guessing and it’s déjà vu with Sebastian Canciellere, Matt Fagerson and George Turner all missing out against Munster. While Smith kept his counsel on the influential trio, Jack Dempsey’s absence represents a major blow after the Scotland international made his return from injury last weekend. 

“Jack Dempsey broke a bit of a bone above his eye which will require surgery and keep him out for a little bit," Smith confirmed. "It’s on the frontal lobe. It will be six to eight weeks. It’s a reintroduction to contact injury so it will be a little bit about how the confidence of the player grows in contact. Therefore giving a specific timescale is not ideal at the moment, but we’re looking at around six to eight weeks. 

“With the rest of the guys, this is the first of five very important games and we need to make sure everyone stays fresh and enthusiastic to keep lifting our performance. The guys coming in add value and the guys who are not involved get an opportunity to reset for another four very important games.”

Glasgow has transformed Scotstoun into a fortress across the last 18 months and their home record in the URC is remarkable. Victory over Ulster last weekend was their 19th consecutive home win in the regular season, amassing 88 points from 95 while depriving their opponents of any try bonus points. 

There is, however, room for improvement on the road and Smith acknowledges this fact, admitting: “We must learn to play with the same intent away from home. We have won a lot away from home and we showed good intent last year with some good examples like the semi-final of the Challenge Cup against Scarlets and against Munster in the URC. 

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“Those are a point of reference for us going forward. We’re playing against the current champions away from home. They are not where they want to be in the table so they’re going to be up for it, as you can see from the type of team they have picked.

“For us, to make steps forwards for the team, squad and our aspiration to be the best we can, this is going to be really important. We are hugely motivated by the opportunity to play them there again. I won’t say we are less intimidated, but there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel in comparison to previous years when they’ve gone there.

“It’s going to be important to not think about what Munster will bring. It’s about what we need to do to become even better. 

“We know we’re a team that has won some games, but we haven’t won anything yet so our approach is around experiencing, learning and getting better in our processes so that this game can become a reference point going forward.”

Smith’s impact since being appointed Glasgow’s head coach in August 2022 has unquestionably been positive and it’s why he’s the favourite to replace Gregor Townsend as Scotland boss in the future.

The South Africans repeatedly stressed the importance of improving Glasgow’s defensive efforts in pre-season and the players have answered his call. Glasgow tops the URC statistics for tackle success (92%) and are second for tackles made  (1,000) and turnovers won (45) to leave Smith satisfied but, characteristically, reticent to get carried away. 

“It’s a nice step forward,” he admitted. “We are not trying to be top of the [stats] tables but if it works out that way, it’s good. We identified certain areas that must keep on adding value. We have five big rocks, of which defence is an important one, so that is pleasing to see.”

Sean Kennedy will continue at scrum-half with George Horne just missing out against Munster and Jamie Dobie still sidelined. Ali Price’s departure to Edinburgh has put Glasgow’s No.9 options in the spotlight and talks are progressing over a new addition.

Smith confirmed: “We have people identified and we’re in conversations with the right people, but there’s also a big expense involved. If a crisis happens, then obviously we have a plan. 

"But with George coming back soon, along with Sean and Ben (Afshar), it’ll be about managing them. Towards the back end of the next six weeks, we’ll also see Jamie Dobie back again. Maybe it works out that we don’t have to get someone new in.”