NATHAN Hines was open to a return to Scottish rugby with Glasgow before agreeing a move to the Aviva Premiership next season with Sale Sharks.
His coach at Clermont, Vern Cotter, will take on the Scotland head coach role this summer and he has spoken to Hines about the potential for him to take on a mentoring role to young Scottish players. That led to the prospect of returning to finish his career in Scotland and the 37-year-old was in talks with Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend about filling a potential vacancy in the Warriors pack and working with youngsters in the west. However, when Tim Swinson agreed a new deal last month to stay at Scotstoun that door closed.
Sale confirmed yesterday that he had agreed a two-year contract to join Steve Diamond and Bryan Redpath in Stockport and Hines told The Scotsman: “I’m really looking forward to the change. Having played in Scotland, Ireland and France, in the Magners League/RaboDirect and the Top 14, this will be new to me but it’s the kind of tough rugby I like.
“I would have loved to have come back to Scotland, where it all started for me with Gala and then Edinburgh, but that wasn’t possible in the end. I think there was a possibility that Glasgow might not be able to hold on to all of their second rows but when it became clear a few weeks ago that they would then Gregor told me there was no space.
“That was fair enough, and it doesn’t rule out the possibility of working with Vern in some kind of role with players in the future, though we haven’t discussed anything specific. But I like playing and Clermont said there was no option to stay with them next season so I was keen to find another club.
“I could have retired and said that was it, but I don’t feel ready to quit yet. I train every day with Clermont, and they make no allowances for me being 20 years older than some of our young kids, and we have contact every day in training, but that makes me pretty confident that my body is still up it. I feel good and I’m playing pretty good still at a high level, with the Heineken Cup quarter-finals to look forward to, so why should I give up?”
Sale’s director of rugby Steve Diamond believes Hines’ experience will be invaluable to many of the young players coming through the Sale ranks, both on the field and off, but he insisted that he is signing the 77-times capped Scot as a player first.
“Nathan is a world-class player and will fit in well with us at Sale Sharks,” he said. “He has vast experience playing at the highest level and is a regular starter at Clermont. Last weekend he was magnificent in helping his team beat Racing Paris. The forwards at Sale Sharks have played well this season and adding Nathan to the group will be a big boost to us.”
Hines could have finished this season and enjoyed the tax break in France that pays retired players close to their finishing salary for two years to help them ease back into ‘civilian’ life. With a young son, Josh, and seven-month-old twins Chloe and Lachlan, his wife Leann might have enjoyed having him around more. But that retirement option will not apply now and his salary at Sale is unlikely to be as high as it was in France.
“That is the not the issue for me,” he added. “I don’t want to spend the next two years sitting around on my backside, and Leann doesn’t want that either. She has family around Manchester too, and we always loved Scotland so this will bring us back closer.
“My son Josh has been giving us a hard time too. He was born in Scotland and keeps saying he wants to ‘go home’ to live. I’ve told him if we all lived where we were born – Leann was born in Northern Ireland, me in Australia and the twins in France – we’d not see much of each other, but he reckons we could all live in his Scottish house.”
THE SCOTSMAN RUGBY SHOW IN ASSOCIATION WITH GINGER GROUSE