ALEX SAMUEL faces some ferocious competition in his quest for regular game time in the Glasgow Warriors second row, up against Scotland internationalists Richie Gray and Scott Cummings, as well as seasoned campaigners Lewis Bean, Sintu Manjezi and JP du Preez.

However, the 20-year-old has done enough in training and during his five competitive appearances for the Scotstoun outfit to persuade head coach Franco Smith that he merits a contract extension which will keep him at the club for “at least the next couple of seasons”.

The deal was announced yesterday, with Smith praising the youngster’s work ethic and capacity for further growth.

“We’ve been impressed with Alex’s attitude and willingness to learn across the season so far,” said the coach of the 6ft 9ins Samuel, who was introduced to rugby at Madras College in his hometown of St Andrews in Fife, and who captained Scotland Under 20s during the 2021 Six Nations campaign.

“He earned his professional debut through his hard work on the training field, fully committing himself to what we’re building here.

“He is a player who has a bright future ahead of him and we are looking forward to seeing him develop even further with us at Scotstoun.”

Samuel joined the Scottish Rugby academy straight out of school, before being one of four players to graduate to full-time contracts last summer, alongside fellow second-row Max Williamson – who he has played alongside at various Scottish age levels – hooker Angus Fraser and back-row Gregor Brown.

He is the first of that quartet to sign a contract extension, while it was revealed this week that Williamson, alongside academy back-rower Ryhs Tait, has joined English Championship side Doncaster Knights on a short-term loan deal in order to get some regular game time.

Samuel made his Warriors debut in a 37-0 win over Benetton at Scotstoun last October and he also impressed whilst playing for Ayrshire Bulls at Super6 level during 2022.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting stuck in to my first year as a professional,” said the player. “Being involved in the matchday 23 on a few occasions has been a massive boost for me, and now I just want to push on and try to become a regular in that matchday squad.

“My debut is a memory I’m going to remember forever, although I also remember being more nervous than I’ve ever been for a match in my life! As soon as the game started though, it was just class. The feeling of the crowd at Scotstoun roaring us on was just something else.

“I’ve also really enjoyed learning from the senior pros here – guys like Richie [Gray], Scott [Cummings], JP [du Preez] and Beano [Lewis Bean] have really helped me a lot this year, and to have team-mates of their calibre to learn from is absolutely brilliant for me.”

Samuel will be hoping to make his sixth competitive appearance for Warriors tomorrow night, when third in the table Ulster visit Scotstoun in the URC. Glasgow are looking to extend their run of good form which has seen then go 10 matches unbeaten in all competitions, and they know that a win with a bonus point would see them jump ahead of the Northern Irishmen in the league ladder.

Veteran Gray will be rested after playing the full 80 minutes for Scotland in their Six Nations wins over England and Wales during the last fortnight, while Manjezi is out of action after surgery on his knee.

However, Cummings could make his comeback from a foot injury sustained last October, having spent last week training with the Scotland squad.

Elsewhere in the side, loose-head prop Jamie Bhatti, hooker Fraser Brown, tight-head prop Simon Berghan, back-rower Jack Dempsey, scrum-half Ali Price, centre Stafford McDowall and full-back Ollie Smith have all been released from Scotland’s training squad for this match.

Warriors could also be boosted by long-term absentees Rory Darge (ankle) and Oli Kebble (shoulder) coming back into contention, at flanker and prop respectively, after their returns to full training following lengthy lay-offs.

However, back-row Ryan Wilson (knee), tight-head props Murphy Walker (neck) and Enrique Pieretto (chest), and stand-offs Ross Thompson (ankle) and Domingo Miotti (back) are all still missing through injury.