Sean Lineen’s move into global role with SRU sees Gregor Townsend take over at Glasgow
THE Scottish Rugby Union have moved Sean Lineen out of Glasgow and into a new joint role scouting Scottish talent around the world and reshaping the development of young players, and replaced him by putting Scotland’s current attack coach Gregor Townsend at the Warriors’ helm.
Lineen insisted that he was looking forward to the new task heading up a new scouting network and with a remit for age-grade rugby, but he confirmed that the switch had emerged last week out of the blue when the 50-year-old met with Graham Lowe, the SRU’s Director of Performance Rugby.
The news leaked out after Scotland suffered a stultifying 32-14 defeat by Ireland in Dublin that punctured the excitement around an improving RBS Six Nations Championship, and led to instant speculation that this had been Robinson’s plan to effectively sack Townsend all along.
However, that is not the case. Townsend spent a month with Glasgow at the start of this year and he and Robinson were looking for coaching opportunities alongside his role as assistant coach with Scotland, to develop his experience. When the SRU struck a deal with Lineen at Glasgow, however, they asked the 38-year-old Townsend if he would consider a head coach position, which meant leaving the Scotland camp, and he and Robinson agreed on the move.
Glasgow’s defence coach, Gary Mercer, is also to be replaced, by Queensland Reds assistant, and former Scotland ‘A’ flanker, Matt Taylor, who will have a shared role with Glasgow and Scotland. Experienced forwards coach Shade Munro, who played for Scotland in the 1990s, will remain at Scotstoun.
Lineen said that he was fully supportive of Townsend and confident that, despite his inexperience, he could build on his legacy.
“I had an opportunity nine years ago to move from club rugby to the professional game and I have loved every minute of it,” he said. “Seven years as head coach is more than some people get and I will support Gregor and help make it as smooth a transition as possible for him and the squad and staff we have here.
“I will still have a role within Scottish rugby, which I’m very enthusiastic about. I can’t say too much about it at the moment, but it will involve the player acquisition side of things and looking to develop more Scottish talent here and outside Scotland.
“It is a fantastic opportunity for Gregor. He is a good coach, with good ideas, very good technically, and we have been working with him quite closely. He works well one-on-one with the players and while he lacks coaching experience with a club, he will have a lot of support here. He will have to learn quickly, but I wish him all the best.”
Lineen cut his teeth in coaching at Boroughmuir, winning Division One and two Scottish cup titles, and after two years as assistant to Hugh Campbell became Glasgow’s head coach in 2005. He also coached the Scotland U21s and the senior backs in the 2006 Six Nations, the last championship in which Scotland struck three wins, beating France, England and Italy.
At Glasgow, he moved the squad from 11th in the Magners League in his first season to third in his fifth, to appear in the first play-offs. Swingeing SRU cuts brought disruption, and the loss of players, but the change of regime at Murrayfield last June injected fresh drive and finance, and currently the Warriors are in fourth spot with five games to go.
The switch took Scottish rugby by surprise and the timing is strange. While Townsend replacing Lineen could be viewed as an injection of fresh coaching talent, the Glasgow head coach role – one of the top three coaching jobs in Scottish rugby – is a high entry point for a rookie and so the parachuting of Townsend straight into the role is hugely controversial.
It comes because Robinson and Lowe rate highly the 82-times capped stand-off and is symptomatic of a shift in coaching appointments in the pro era from the traditional grassroots road, like Lineen and Munro took, to the promotion of ex-internationalists such as Tom Smith at Edinburgh, Bryan Redpath and Carl Hogg at Gloucester and Steve Scott at Sale without a club coaching background.
However, it will infuriate many club coaches in Scotland who believe they are being shunned despite, or because of, serving lengthy coaching apprenticeships in the club game and the perceived gulf to the pro arena.
SRU chief executive Mark Dodson has agreed to meet all the Premier One coaches in an effort to ease tensions, and he will face stiff questioning on the lack of opportunities for promising coaches without a playing background.
As for Lineen, he added: “I’m looking forward to the new role, but right now I can’t see past our next RaboDirect PRO12 game.
“We still have a massively important run of games and all my energies are going into getting us to the play-offs. I want to have seven more games [which means reaching the play-off final] and Glasgow enjoying a great finish to the season. That would be a nice way to go out.”
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