Jack Dempsey feels ‘something growing’ at Glasgow since Franco Smith’s arrival
Jack Dempsey has hailed head coach Franco Smith’s impact on Glasgow after the Warriors reached their first European final.
With the season well and truly at its business-end, Glasgow are also chasing United Rugby Championship honours and face a play-off clash against Munster at Scotstoun next Saturday.
And their trophy double bid underlines the effect South African Smith has had during his first season in charge.
“Since day one when Franco came in, there has been something kind of growing,” Glasgow and Scotland back-row forward Dempsey said.
“And whether you are an amateur player or a professional player or whatever it is, that is something which hits you.
“Franco has got plaudits for various things, but the biggest thing was building that depth so that there were opportunities for guys like Matt Fagerson and myself to be managed correctly.
“There are no real excuses. We are just rolling now and picking ourselves up week to week.
This is what it means 🤩#WhateverItTakes ⚔️🛡️ pic.twitter.com/Mv3X1iv2LD
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) April 29, 2023
“Franco is smart around the training loads as well, and he knows that going into these big games that we are not going to get heaps fitter at this stage of the season by working really hard.
“It is too late for that. At the end of the season, you are either fit or you’re not, so he is managing us well.”
Glasgow have emulated Edinburgh eight years ago in booking a Challenge Cup final place – the Warriors will head to Dublin on May 19 – but they were pushed all the way by the Scarlets in Llanelli.
The home side, roared on by a 13,000 crowd – their biggest home attendance since they knocked La Rochelle out of the Champions Cup in 2018 – led 14-7 at half-time.
JP du Preez 👉 Scott Cummings 👉 George Horne
Support goals, @GlasgowWarriors go over the line 🔥#ChallengeCupRugby pic.twitter.com/b3dDYILPVl
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) April 29, 2023
Bur Glasgow dug deep, scoring 28 points after the break and claiming a 35-17 victory as centre Stafford McDowall scored two tries, while scrum-half George Horne, flanker Rory Darge and replacement hooker Johnny Matthews also touched down.
Dempsey added: “There have been ups and downs, but this is something I think we deserve because of the way everyone has worked for each other.
“To get that result, in a pretty hostile environment, it just adds another layer to the story.
“That’s what the whole point is of getting experience on big stages – you never know what is going to be thrown at you – and I think the second half showed what we are made of.
“We could easily have folded, gone into our shell and blamed it on a learning experience and had a look to next year, but we dug deep and went back to what makes us a great team, and we pulled it out in the end.
“We have been comfortable the last three or four weeks when we’ve had all home games, so the curve ball this week was the hostile environment when you can’t hear your own lineout calls, for example, and it makes it challenging in other ways.
“You take confidence in the fact that you haven’t lost in a while, but I think the game was a bit of a shock to the system and a wake-up call for the boys to see that in big moments this is what it takes.
“We saw that it can slip through your fingers when we went 14-7 down, and there is a price to pay if you are not switched on.”