Smith senior has been a one-man brass section in the stands at Scotstoun in recent seasons, serenading Glasgow Warriors tries with a parp from his horn. The trumpet is now going on tour, with Gavin and his wife Alison heading to France to support their son at the Rugby World Cup. It’s music to the ears of the full-back who has a chance to impress this weekend after being selected to start Scotland’s final warm-up game against Georgia. Smith, who came off the bench in the narrow defeat by France in Saint-Etienne a fortnight ago, says hearing the backing from his dad gives him a huge lift.
“It’s awesome to see them, even at Glasgow games. And to have Dad at Saint-Etienne, it was nice to see a familiar face after the game. And he’s always buzzing to see me play.”
Things didn’t run entirely smoothly at the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium, and Gavin had his trumpet confiscated at one point by overzealous officials.
“Yes, there was an incident in Saint-Etienne,” confirmed Smith. “He got it taken off him and it got put behind a bar and then they managed to charm it from the bar and get it back. We were warming up behind the posts in Saint-Etienne and I could hear him playing it and I just turned to my left and he was sat in my eyeline but I don’t think he played it too much that night. It was too loud anyway and you couldn’t hear him.”
The cacophonous atmosphere in the ground that night will serve as good preparation for the World Cup which kicks off for Scotland against holders South Africa in Marseille on September 10. Smith appears to be in a straight fight with Blair Kinghorn for the No 15 jersey following the surprise announcement in July by Stuart Hogg that he would be retiring before the tournament. Smith, the youngest member of the squad having recently turned 23, says he has a good relationship with Kinghorn. “Both of us are competitive as players but not like a rivalry. It is always good natured and we learn off each other well. We chat to each other in training, bounce off one another. There is no bad blood. There is no heated rivalry. He is a good player to learn off and has a lot of experience for his age and has nearly 50 caps already at 26. He has a lot of experience playing at Edinburgh and across the back line and has a very good skills set.”
The modest Smith isn’t too shabby in that department either and has been a fixture in Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad since making his debut during last summer’s tour to Argentina. It was a breakthrough moment for the Ayrshire man who quickly found his feet at international level.
“I remember going into the third Test when I made my debut and being pretty nervous but the boys speaking to me before the game said it is like any other game. I remember just before we went out and just before the anthems Sam Johnson said to me it is just like the Glasgow games but faster. That stuff puts you at ease a bit and once you get the first one out of the way they start to roll on and you get used to them. It is cool to play at Murrayfield and I enjoy the atmosphere and occasion and try to treat it like any other day. I try not to think about it too much.”
Smith followed his Test bow in Argentina with a try-scoring performance in the narrow home defeat by Australia in the first of last season’s autumn internationals. He then played in the Six Nations - and tasted victory with Scotland for the first time - when he started against Italy in March. It has been a series of personal milestones culminating in selection last week for Townsend’s World Cup squad. He admits Hogg’s retirement helped open the door and although he’s going to miss Scotland’s record try-scorer he is determined to seize the opportunity.
“It came as a shock to us as well,” he said of the full-back’s decision to bow out following a succession of injuries. “Obviously it's not how he wanted to go out. He's been a massive asset to the team for many years and someone I took a lot from whenever we trained in camp. We are going to miss him but we have other guys in the squad who can do a good job. Look at how well Blair is playing at the moment and there are loads of other guys across the back three, so it's a good group of boys we've got.
“With a guy like Hoggy, there's massive shoes to fill. He started 99 games for Scotland and was one of the best players every time he played. It's obviously not easy [to replace him] but I feel personally like I'm trying to be my own sort of player. My game might waver from what Hoggy could do but I can still help the team be in the best place to try and win games. It does come with a bit of pressure but I try not to think about that too much.”
Having support from his parents helps, and in particular his dad’s musical interludes which could become a feature of Scotland’s matches in France next month. “I always know when he’s going to play it because he’s told me he’ll only play it when there’s a try or a fight or something like that,” smiles Smith. “He’s got different songs for each player, so we’ll see how he works it into the games.”
And which song does he play for Ollie?
“Olé, olé, olé - it’s simple and snappy!”