• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Clever decision or unnecessary risk? It's all a matter of opinion, it seems

Yesterday's gathering at Scotstoun was meant to give professional rugby analysts a chance to examine what many in Scottish rugby regarded as the inexplicable decision to replace Sean Lineen as Glasgow Warriors head coach with Gregor Townsend.

Instead, it turned into a field day for amateur psychoanalysts.

The first intervention of Graham Lowe, the man who had emerged from the shadows to take responsibility for the aforementioned decision, might not have been a Freudian slip as such. However, modern public relations specialists brief their clients not to offer answers to unasked questions, so his unprompted explanation of what Lineen's new job isn't seemed telling.

"I'll answer this," interjected the SRU's director of performance rugby as Mark Dodson, the organisation's chief executive, was attempting to describe Lineen's new role as "head of player acquisition" beyond that of a chief scout.

"There are other parts to the player acquisition role. It includes obviously identifying players worldwide, the under-20s and also the Exiles structure down south. Player acquisition happens across all levels of the business, including down as low as under-16 and we need to make sure we're joined up. So this is not a convenient role we've put together . . . this is a genuine role that we think will make a difference strategically."

What makes that defence of something he had not been asked to defend all the more odd is that what is now being described as a full-time job for Lineen sounds almost identical to the task Andy Robinson, Scotland's head coach, had said would be an add-on to the job he was giving Scott Johnson when he becomes Scotland's senior assistant coach later this year.

At that time, Robinson claimed that was an important facet of Johnson's role. By contrast, Dodson seemed to be suggesting yesterday that it would merely be remiss of the SRU not to take advantage of the knowledge Johnson has of the global game. Dodson was also asked three times whether he felt that both Lineen and Townsend were being promoted before he could bring himself to say so.

Lineen was, however, given no choice in the matter, making his removal a sacking, even if he was immediately offered another role in the organisation. He made little attempt to disguise that in either his body language or his account of what happened.

"This is just the way it is," he said. "Last week I was called into head office and told I wasn't going to be head coach next season but here's an opportunity for you. Once you get your head around it and decisions are made you've got to move on and look at what we've got to do with Glasgow Warriors for the rest of this season."

"Gregor's inheriting what I think is the strongest ever Glasgow squad going forward," he noted. "It's exciting times here. He's also inheriting a fantastic staff with the conditioners and physios.

"So we've got a lot of work to do over the next wee while. We're looking to bring in another couple of players and getting things right, but it's all about Aironi a week on Friday and that's what our focus has to be."

The outrage expressed by supporters was dismissed by Dodson as a matter of opinion while he noted that the role of executives was to make tough decisions. That is certainly so, but what has bewildered those supporters is that neither players nor fans were clamouring for Lineen's removal, while they believe a man perceived to be doing a fine job is being replaced by one who seems to have made a hash of his first full-time professional appointment.

Lowe, a man who has worked in Scotland since 2009 but is still relatively unknown to many in the rugby community, understandably spoke effusively about his belief that Townsend, completely unproven as a head coach, would excel in the role.

For his part, Townsend also said that the reaction to his appointment was merely opinion when expressing his complete belief in his capacity to become a very good coach, describing himself as "a good coach just now".

He said he based that on the work he has done with Scotland: "I believe from an attacking point of view we've really improved over the past few seasons and the highlights for me were beating South Africa, beating Australia and winning a Test series in Argentina."

Townsend has been employed as Scotland's attack coach for three years, during which time the SRU has prioritised the national team in terms of funding. The wins over Australia and South Africa were achieved without a try being scored. In Argentina, Scotland scored one try in two Tests. In four RBS 6 Nations they have scored a total of 17 tries in 19 matches, winning only three.

Since Townsend's appointment, Lineen has continued as head coach of a Glasgow team poorer resourced than all their rivals, including Edinburgh.

In the 2008/09 season when Townsend became a professional coach, Glasgow finished seventh in the 10-team Magners League, five places below Andy Robinson's Edinburgh.

Since then, they have won the 1872 Challenge Cup (Glasgow v Edinburgh) three times in a row, have reached the inaugural Magners League play-offs in 2009/10 and are close to doing so again in the RaboDirect Pro12.

Whether or not there was any need for the decision to be taken, Lowe, who arrived in Scotland in 2009, Dodson, who arrived six months ago, and Robinson, who as Scotland head coach seems to have had a major say, were certainly in a position to do so.

Doubtless they have good reasons for what seems a strangely unnecessary risk. Yesterday's press conference did little by way of revealing what those are . . . other than what some might dismiss as a few men's opinions.

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

87093