Despite the unbeaten Ospreys claiming pole position after the first four rounds of the new campaign the former Warriors head coach reckons that defending champions Leinster and Ulster will pose the greatest threat to the Scotstoun side’s hopes of concluding a Pro12 campaign on top of the league summit for the first time.
The former Scotland centre is convinced, even at this early stage of the season, that Munster and Ospreys will be the other names in the shakedown for the play-offs and says home advantage for Glasgow can prove pivotal at the last four stage.
Lineen, who was in charge at Warriors between 2006-12 and guided them to two play-off semi-finals, has no doubt that his successor, Gregor Townsend, has assembled a squad that is ready to go all the way this term after carving out an unbeaten four-game start to the season.
“Glasgow must aim to finish top so they can get the fourth team at home in the semi-final and also with a view to having control of the destination of the final itself,” said Lineen.
“I’d say that Leinster or Ulster will be second and fourth place could be between Munster and Ospreys. If Glasgow can finish top and get that home semi then they’d fancy there chances and that would be ideal for Warriors.
“There is clear progress at Glasgow from last season. They’re comfortable with each other and I just think that there is a level of ambition and intensity that teams can’t match and Glasgow are very, very fit. They have tremendous squad depth, so players are having to play very well to stay in the side.
“I watched the warm-up before the Connacht game on Friday night and they can’t wait to get on that pitch and hear the first whistle. So Glasgow, right now, are just playing outstanding rugby backed up with tremendous fitness. But I think Glasgow have some guys who have been at the club for three or four years now and they are just a really tight dressing room. I also believe they’ve learned a lot from last season. You can see they’re just itching to win something this time around. For me they have the depth, belief and quality they need for that.”
The next examination of Glasgow’s impressive start to the new season will come at the Stadio Monigo on Sunday when they face the normally obdurate Italian side Treviso. But with Umberto Casellato’s side propping up the Pro12 after losing all of their early outings, Lineen says Glasgow will be targeting a bonus point success over a side who have been shorn of some big names following the loss of much of their financial backing.
“Treviso are not as strong as they have been, they have lost a lot of players after having had quite a bit of their financial backing removed and Glasgow will be going to Italy with the confidence of having won four games on the bounce.
“There will probably be quite a few changes in the Glasgow ranks, as Gregor freshens things up and it will be interesting to see how the guys that come in do. But with the quality of depth Glasgow have I don’t see that as an issue and, you can whisper it quietly, but Glasgow will be going to Italy and be looking for a bonus point victory.”
Looking back at Warriors’ 39-21 five-try bonus point win over a previously unbeaten Connacht side on Friday night at Scotstoun, Lineen has no doubt about the positives that exhilarating performance produced. He said: “Connacht have always been stuffy but this is one of the best Connacht sides I’ve seen in recent years. They were very dangerous on the counter and played with real ambition. They’re also very fit and wouldn’t go away but Glasgow are just looking very classy right now. Two of the tries that Glasgow scored in that second-half were outstanding, with possibly the one from DTH van der Merwe, the pick of the bunch.
“Stuart Hogg to me looks like he is back at his best and he took his tries really well and what Glasgow have is just so much threat right across the backs and the pace they are playing at makes it very difficult to live with them.”
The 52 year-old added: “It was also great to see big Al Kellock back in the mix and nicking a couple of lineouts. You can’t underestimate just how important he is to the Glasgow cause and the value of the leadership he provides on the field of play.
“Al is doing a fantastic job mentoring young Jonny Gray and you look at the way that Tim Swinson chipped in and the big Fijian Leone Nakarawa has also made a big contribution this season already and Glasgow are very strong in that second row. So all-in-all things are looking very promising for Gregor and the boys.”