Glasgow v Bath: Lineen seeks to exploit Bath flaws

HIS European ambitions may have foundered at the hands of Bath on more than one occasion, but Sean Lineen believes Glasgow can claim a vital victory over the men from the Rec that would give Warriors’ inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup campaign the victorious launch-pad it needs this Saturday at Scotstoun.

Former Glasgow coach Sean Lineen remains optimistic about Warriors European chances. Picture: SNS

The former Scotland centre was at the coaching helm for Glasgow between March 2006 and the end of season 2011/12 during which, twice in that six-year period, defeats by the English giants destroyed Glasgow’s hopes of progressing to the knock-out stages of the old Heineken Cup for the first time.

In campaign 2008/09 Lineen’s Glasgow went down at the ­Recreation Ground 35-31, despite three Thom Evans tries, before succumbing at Firhill 19-25 a week later.

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In campaign 2011/12 Warriors claimed a dramatic 26-21 victory at Firhill, thanks to a late Richie Gray try, which is their only ­victory over Bath in six European encounters.

However two months later at the Rec in the return encounter it was a familiar tale of heartbreak as the Scottish side lost out 23-18, despite tries by Tommy Seymour and Robert Harley.

Yet although Warriors slipped to their first defeat of the domestic campaign at the weekend against an uncompromising Ulster side, Bath demonstrated a surprising fallibility when they came a cropper against Wasps, in the English Premiership on Sunday and Lineen remains ­optimistic about his former side’s hopes of success over Mike Ford’s men.

“The key to Glasgow’s hopes of making it out the pool stage for the first time will be to beat Bath to start with. If they pull that off then this could be their season to finally make the knock-out stages,” said Lineen.

“Glasgow have a really tough group with Montpellier next up and then our old friends at Toulouse. But I have watched Bath destroy Leicester 45-0 and turn over Saracens recently and man, they are brutal. Yet the great thing for Glasgow is that they don’t play like a Premiership team and they move the ball from side-to-side and they have that exceptional fitness to play the high tempo off-loading game that Bath will not have come up against down South.

“That said, Bath have a very, very strong forward pack and they pride themselves on the set-piece, as Premiership teams do, and Warriors’ scrum will have to be rock-solid, but if we can hold them up front then Glasgow will have a real chance.”

Lineen is also relishing the tactical dual that will see Bath’s impressive young stand-off George Ford pit his playmaking wits against either Duncan Weir, Finn Russell, or perhaps Peter Horne, depending on which way Warriors’ head-coach Gregor Townsend opts to rotate at 10.

Lineen said: “Bath have young George Ford at 10 and he is a very classy act and it will be interesting to see who Gregor plays against him. Finn Russell did well against Ulster, despite the defeat, Duncy Weir has been playing well at 10 and Peter Horne is another option.

“But it is a fantastic home game to start off in Europe with, and if Glasgow can get a ­positive result it would give them a real platform for the rest of their pool phase.”

Turning his attention to Warrior’s other two Pool Four rivals, French Top 14 giants Montpellier and Toulouse, once again Lineen sees opportunity beckoning. “Montpellier are going to be really tough next weekend and no trip to the Stade Yves du Manoir is anything but a battle but we got a creditable draw there back in 2011, 13-13, and the key to that was belief,” said the former Glasgow head coach.

Lineen continued: “Toulouse did not have a good start to the season with defeats to the likes of La Rochelle and Brive and their head coach Guy Noves has been about for an awful long time, but they proved at the weekend with their victory over Toulon, at the Stade Ernest ­Wallon, that they are still a very formidable proposition on home soil, so it’s hard to say if this is a good time to get them or not.”

One of the many key calls awaiting Warriors’ head-coach Townsend is whether to start with the impressively pragmatic Henry Pyrgos at nine or gamble on the maverick match-winning skills of Niko Matawalu.

Lineen, the man who plucked Pyrgos from life at Loughborough University, back in 2010, where he was pursuing a chemistry degree, believes the Scotland international would be the smarter option.

The former Scotland Grand Slam winner said: “Henry Pyrgos for me has been outstanding for Glasgow this season and you can see how much he has learned from the master, Chris Cusiter.

“Henry has always had a great kicking game but his passing has sharpened up and he really knows how, intuitively, to run a game.

“He is also making really good decisions and when it comes to the Scotland number nine jersey Henry will be right up there come the Autumn Tests. It is just great that he is playing so well.”