Franco Smith admits he is delighted to see Facundo Cordero over his injury hit year and finally make his debut for Glasgow Warriors almost 12 months on from signing.

The Argentine joined from Exeter Chiefs in March last year but has been unable to represent Glasgow because of injury, including one picked up on just his second day of training when he ripped his hamstring. An ankle problem picked up in pre-season then ruled him out for much of this season but he’s now set to pull on a Warriors kit for the first time when they face Dragons in the URC on Saturday evening.

They are without many of their Scotland players with just four returned to Smith for use and Jamie Bhatti, Johnny Matthews, Ross Thompson and captain for the night Stafford McDowall all start. Kyle Steyn was also originally released but Gregor Townsend then made a decision to bring him back into the Scotland set up immediately instead of allowing him to play against Dragons.

Bhatti will make his 100th appearance for the club and starts alongside Matthews and Luca Sordoni in the front row, while it’s a young second row partnership with Alex Samuel and Max Williamson both selected. The back row then sees Euan Ferrie and Thomas Gordon as flankers with Henco Venter in at 8.

Ben Afshar and Thompson start in the half backs while McDowall and Tom Jordan partner up in the centre. Jamie Dobie has moved to the wing with Josh McKay at full back and Cordero completing the lineup to make his debut.

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And Smith said: “He’s been very unfortunate since he came. In his second training session with us he ripped his hamstring which didn’t recover until the end of the season. Played very well in pre-season then picked up an ankle injury which kept him off and with us leading up to the Six Nations there was other priorities in selection.

“I’m really happy with him. He’s contributed a lot even though he hasn’t been playing every week. His attitude and the way he’s gone about helping us prepare for games has been second to none. He’s a very good person and we’re excited to have finally represent the club.”

There’s also a debut on the cards for Ruaraidh Hart with the Scotland U20 star named among the replacements for the first time. He’s joined there by Angus Fraser, Nathan McBeth, Oli Kebble, Sintu Manjezi, Gregor Hiddleston, Sean Kennedy and Duncan Weir in a 6-2 split.

Smith continued: “Ruaridh ‘big’ Hart as we call him has done exceptionally well in the pre-season. He’s trained well and his detail is excellent. He looks like a seasoned companion when it comes to the detail. He’s done well against Ulster in pre-season and he’s maintaining that form and ability here among us. It’s a good opportunity to step up into the big league and take this experience back to Scotland U20s next week

“I’m excited to be back out there. It was a decent break and a good time to reset physically and mentally. From a playing perspective we’re excited to see how guys can go out there and contribute to the season as much as they can and we’re excited to be playing again.

“I’m not going to comment on selection from their (Scotland’s) side but I do feel Jamie Bhatti has been a stalwart for Glasgow and Scotland for a long time now and I’m really glad for him that he’s going to reach this milestone tomorrow night. If he keeps working hard he can still offer a lot and become even better and it will give him a better chance to become more involved with Scotland.

“I’m really proud of him and the way he’s worked and played for us in recent years.”

Glasgow Warriors team to face Dragons: McKay, Cordero, McDowall, Jordan, Dobie, Thompson, Afshar, Bhatti, Matthews, Sordoni, Williamson, Samuel, Ferrie, Gordon, Vento

Replacements: Fraser, McBeth, Kebble, Hart, Manjezi, Hiddleston, Kennedy, Weir