FRANCO Smith is confident that Glasgow’s friendly against the Ayrshire Bulls this evening will be a worthwhile exercise – and

has urged some squad members to seize the chance to prove how valuable they can be this season.

The Bulls stepped in to provide opposition for the Warriors on Wednesday night after Worcester, the original opponents for the fixture in Inverness, pulled out because of their financial troubles. As only part-time professionals, the Millbrae team are unlikely to provide the sustained level of opposition that the English Premiership professionals would have given Glasgow, but they are a spirited side who will not shirk the fight.

The Bulls became the inaugural Super6 champions last year, and their parent club Ayr have been one of the leading sides in Scotland in recent years. So Smith, for whom this will be his debut as Glasgow’s head coach, knows his players will have to be focused and on top of their game if they are to put in a morale-boosting performance. And in any case, with just next week’s friendly against Ulster still to come before the start of the URC campaign, the coach’s fundamental need at this stage of proceedings is simply to see his squad playing rugby.

“It was very important to

get this game on and I’m very appreciative to get the Ayr guys coming up,” the South African said. “From a rugby point of view I’m excited to still get out there.

“The reasons Worcester are not coming are reasons we could do nothing about and could not avoid. It is a bit of a disappointment – I think it would have been a real

challenge straight up. But we still have to work on our

objectives in our game and at least we have another

opposition to play against.”

Smith has named a 30-man squad, and has handed debuts to two key summer signings, back-row forwards Sintu

Manjezi and Sione Vailanu. Winger Walter Fifita, who has only made two appearances since signing last October, also gets a chance to prove what he can do.

“It’s their turn to show what they’ve learned in pre-season,” Smith added.

“I’m excited to see them. I’m looking forward to seeing them grab this opportunity.”

There are seven internationals in the Warriors’ starting line-up, while the bench contains several new members of the academy. There is also a strong Bulls connection in the Glasgow squad, from centres Stafford McDowall and Tom Jordan, who both used to play at Millbrae, to replacements Cam Jones and Will Hunt, who are part of the Super6 champions’ squad but have been working with the Warriors in the close season. Lock Alex Samuel, who has also seen action with the Bulls this season, could make his Glasgow debut off the bench, as could his second-row colleague JP du Preez.

As there are another 30-plus members of his squad who will not see action tonight, Smith could ring the changes for the Ulster match and field an entirely different squad. However, Allan Dell, for one, is expected to miss that game at Scotstoun because of a calf concern.

“He was very much part of the plan of this, then he developed a little bit of a calf injury, which is not serious,” Smith said of the prop. “So I’ve withdrawn him.”

Some players who toured with Scotland in the summer are also likely to sit out next week’s game, although Smith hedged his bets when asked if they would be involved. “I don’t want to say no, but we have a specific pre-season plan for them,” he said. “They have a long season ahead, with important internationals to be played in November then the Six Nations in the build-up to the World Cup, so they need a proper pre-season. We’ve got to give them a fair chance.

“Also I think it’s important for Scotland’s future and their future that these guys have a proper opportunity to get physically strong. They have had their rest, which is important, now we’re working on them physically, getting them sharper and faster for our needs.”

The Warriors should be sharper and faster than the Bulls tonight, but they will not get carried away no matter how handsome a victory they may record. Ulster in seven days’ time will provide a far more accurate gauge of their progress in pre-season.