Franco Smith has insisted that the unavailability of so many Glasgow players for tonight’s match against Zebre is not an inconvenience but a “huge opportunity” for him and for the team.

Earlier this week the Warriors listed 12 players who are currently out injured, and in addition to them 16 are away at the Rugby World Cup - 15 Scots and Tonga’s Sione Vailanu. However, Smith believes that the need to promote academy players to the senior squad now could stand the team in good stead for later this season or even for future campaigns.

“I don’t see it as difficult not having everybody available,” the head coach said after announcing a squad of 26 for the first of two pre-season friendlies - the other is away to Ulster next Saturday. “It’s good to work with players we might not have the opportunity to work with so closely over the rest of the season.

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“So it’s a huge opportunity to work with these young players, the next generation of Scottish players and Glasgow Warriors players, and expose them to our environment. We’re excited about getting back out there - the players more than I am. Everybody is ready for the next step.”

Argentinian full-back Facundo Cordero and South African forward Henco Venter are among those who will be playing for the Warriors for the first time, although their official debuts will not come until they play in a competitive game. Tom Jordan, who was Smith’s first choice as stand-off last season, is named an inside centre, while  Ross Thompson plays at 10 alongside scrum-half Jamie Dobie, who Smith has named as captain for the first time.

“He leads more by example, which we always appreciate more than just someone leading by his voice,” Smith said of Dobie. “The leadership qualities that he’s presented over the last year have been extraordinary, so he’s been rewarded for his manner, the way he goes about his business, and influencing the players around him. Through his contribution he merits this chance - he’s definitely part of our leadership group going forward.”

Glasgow Warriors (v Zebre Parma at Scotstoun, tonight [Saturday 6pm): F Cordero; S Cancelliere, D Munn, T Jordan, K Rowe; R Thompson, J Dobie (captain); N McBeth, A Fraser, L Sordoni, A Samuel, E Ferrie, G Brown, A Miller, H Venter. Replacements: C Tait, T Banatvala, C Norrie, R Hart, J Morris, B Afshar, D Weir, B Salmon, K Johnston, L Bardelli, O Horne.