Scotstoun will be close to a sell-out as Glasgow Warriors welcome Ulster in a mouthwatering URC clash tonight with scrum-halves still very much on Franco Smith’s mind. 

Smith enjoyed a successful debut season at Glasgow and that promise has continued this campaign as they sit second in the league after four wins from five but the South African can’t escape interrogation over his options at No.9

Ali Price’s departure to rivals was met with scepticism amongst some Glasgow fans and their worse fears have materialised. Jamie Dobie was ruled out for three months after sustaining an ankle injury against Osprey’s and George Horne has now picked up a hamstring issue. 

Smith was unhappy that Price was allowed to leave before losing his two-first choice scrum-halves. Now, Sean Kennedy will deputise against Ulster with youngster Ben Afshar named on the bench but Smith admits he will sign another No.9. 

“We’re still close to bringing in a new No 9 - it’s Ben Afshar,” Smith joked. “You guys can be proud. He’s there and he’s presenting himself and he’s a Scottish boy.

“There’s a fine balance between bringing somebody in for the sake of it and getting the right person. We want the right player and the right person. It’s not necessarily going to be a long-term arrangement but we want the right player to come in.

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“And with Europe coming up there are a lot of hoops to jump through in the sense that if you register players now for the European cups they must have a contract for longer than three months. Last year Bristol walked into that trap.

“So there are a lot of things we need to take into consideration. If we sign somebody now for longer than three months there must be a real objective to use them.

“If Ben Afshar and Sean put their hands up and George is back in a couple of weeks then he can be active again. So we just want to make sure we get the right guy at the right time.”

“We don’t necessarily need free agents. Some clubs have an excess of players, others coming back from injury who need to play and some were just signed for World Cup cover. 

“There are some good players around but you must also see it from their point of view. They also want to sign longer-term deals rather than shorter deals, so we must find the right player to add value to our environment

"We can pull the trigger if something goes wrong this weekend with the way that our No. 9s are falling - we have a plan.”

Horne’s injury, sustained against Benneton, isn’t considered serious and no risks have been taken ahead of Glasgow’s European campaign commencing in a fortnight. Smith, however, has every faith in veteran Kennedy and 20-year-old Afshar - who is viewed as a hugely promising talent. 

Smith added: “Sean Kennedy for the last seasons sat behind three international scrum halves basically. And I said to him the other day, maybe we’ve lost Ali Price, but we have definitely gained in Sean Kennedy. 

"He’s another player who’s got a lot of potential still, he’s still got a lot to offer to the team, he’s very solid in his approach. We’re going to need the scrum-halves this season down the line, all best prepared and ready, so I think Sean’s ability to make a game flow and make sure that we’re well organised and his kicking ability are some of his good attributes. 

“The same with young Ben Afshar. We identified him last year as someone with real potential. He’s been playing well - he played well in the Super Series final, and in the semi-final. He’s come along well in the way we want him to regard his general play, and he’s learned to apply his individual ability to our team, so I’m very excited to see him as well.” 

There is good news on the injury front for Glasgow with Jack Dempsey set for his first appearance of the season against Ulster and fellow Scotland international Huw Jones is nearing a return. 

Ulster sits just two points behind Glasgow in second in the URC table and the Northern Irish side - considered one of the title favourites - has strengthened their ranks considerably with the addition of World Cup winner Steven Kitshoff.

“They know how important the set-piece is and Kitshoff is world-class - we all know that,” Smith replied when asked about Kishoff’s debut against Glasgow. “He’s already played in this competition more than enough for the Stormers, so he knows what is expected. 

"He’s a great attribute to the club and it adds to their quality players. They’ve had players in that environment for a while and they have some good international returning. They’ve added more value with the foreigners and we expect a really rough Ulster team.”