Franco Smith has urged his Glasgow Warriors stars to dream about representing the British and Irish Lions on their tour to Australia. 

Andy Farrell was announced as the next Lions coach on Thursday with the former England international to take secondment from his role as Ireland head coach.

Glasgow have a plethora of Scotland regulars within their squad and they will have the opportunity to impress Farrell on the international stage across ahead of the trip down under in the summer of 2025, starting with the upcoming Six Nations. 

Smith has full belief that some of his Warriors can force their way into Farrell’s plans and he recently communicated that to his players.

“I actually stepped up last week and laid that challenge out to the boys,” Smith admitted. “There’s so much to play for in their careers and there’s a Lions tour around the corner. There’s an opportunity through the club into Scotland then with good performances, you could be available to live a dream. It’s definitely part of the motivation and objectives to give the players the chance to become the best players they can be so accolades of this nature can fall on them.

Asked whether some of his players possessed the ability to become Lions, Smith replied: “Yes, definitely. Even with the internationals that we currently have, there’s enough room for improvements in their game to be really effective at that level. With my experiences with South Africa and Italy, it’s clear to me what’s needed and I can identify that for them. I hope they keep working hard to gain an opportunity like that.”

Before Glasgow’s players can dream about the Lions tour - never mind the Six Nations - Smith’s men face a tough trip to Exeter in the Champions Cup. Smith has named a couple of changes from their recent defeat to Edinburgh with youngster Ben Hiddlestone handed his debut at hooker.

“I hope he brings a lot, to be honest,” Smith said. “We’re really excited. He would have had his chance earlier but unfortunately got injured in training a couple of months ago when he had been picked to play. He’s been really good in all aspects of the game. He played well in then Super Six Series and has been really impressive in the last two seasons. He’s been working hard and knocking at the door. We have Johnny Matthews and George Turner who I would think will be in the Scotland fray, and we’ve seen Gus Fraser quite a bit who also excites us. But if we do lose both the guys we’re going to need depth in that role so it’s important for Gregor to be blooded. But that’s not the main reason. He’s really shown his capability and I’m excited about his future.”

Glasgow have been decimated with injuries in their back row recently but their injury problems are easing. Fears that Rory Darge would be sidelined long-term were allayed earlier in the week and Matt Fagerson will return against Exeter with Jack Dempsey edging closer to a return.

“It’s good to have Matt Fag back as he’s an important part of our team,” Smith added. “Ally Miller, Tom Gordon and Henco Venter have made some good strides. We had Gregor Brown involved too and I’m glad to grow the depth and see the depth. It’s important for Matt to be back in preparation for the Six Nations and he brings something special. Jack has trained fully this week and he completed his first contact yesterday and today. We will see how he progresses next week and he might be available for selection next week.

On Darge, Smith continued: “It’s good news for us if a six month injury becomes a three month injury. It’s still 6 to 8 weeks and maybe, as he progresses with his rehabilitation, we will see him earlier. Scotland will play a fair share in his rehabilitation as it’s definitely in their interests as well. The prognosis currently is six to eight weeks and we’re two weeks gone already.” 

Glasgow revived their qualification hopes in the Champions Cup with an excellent away win against Bayonne in their last European outing. They’ll need to eclipse that performance to triumph against Exeter, despite their defeat to fellow pool team Northampton in the English Premiership last weekend.

“We need a similar sort of performance, maybe even more,” he admitted. “Exeter are one of the top teams in the Premiership just now. There’s a lot of expectation around their club and they are a proud team. They got pipped at home by Northampton last week, so we expect they’ll be up for it and will look to respond. The English crowds are always really up for it, so it will take a special performance from us to win.

"Exeter were the champions of this competition three or four years ago, they know what it is, they’ve got players who have played here before and have left a legacy for the new players who came in. Definitely this year they’ve given themselves a chance to go all the way again. They’re a hard-working team with really good ethics, similar to what we have here. Unfortunately last week they lost in the last moment but they’ve shown they have the ability to go all the way in this competition.”