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

England show the way when it comes to appointing the right man

One of the key men behind England's World Cup bid had failed as national coach.

The SRU have confirmed that Sean Lineen will coach Scotland's U20s this season, but the Kilted Kiwi undoubtedly has what it takes to succeed Andy Robinson.  Picture: Nick Ponty
The SRU have confirmed that Sean Lineen will coach Scotland's U20s this season, but the Kilted Kiwi undoubtedly has what it takes to succeed Andy Robinson. Picture: Nick Ponty

There was no choice other than for him to go. Big names in the coaching world were being quoted as potential successors. It was time for those in power to understand what was required and make the right decision. That was the scenario which faced England's Rugby Football Union a year ago after Martin Johnson decided he was going to have to quit for perhaps the only time in his rugby career.

England's rugby authorities were coming under considerable pressure, not least from the sycophants who would have us believe that Clive Woodward won the World Cup single-handedly, to go for someone with vast international experience to take over.

They showed great nerve, some would say uncharacteristically, to take the much less glamorous option of recognising the need to appoint someone who knew the culture of their sport and their current crop of players better than anyone else.

That is why Stuart Lancaster was appointed as their interim head coach a year ago and what a reward his employers got last weekend when the previously little known Cumbrian who had worked his way through the coaching ranks masterminded England's record win over New Zealand.

The parallels between what Twickenham's decision makers had to address at the time and what confronts Scottish rugby now could hardly be more obvious. It is to be hoped, then, that those in power here learn from that rather than seeking to prove they know better than those immersed in the sport.

The problems afflicting the Scottish game run much deeper than the failure of the national and professional teams to take their chances in crucial matches. The main task for the SRU executives and board members is to come up with a long-term strategy that begins to promote real interest and involvement in the sport and so genuinely raise playing numbers in order to improve the raw material available.

Instead of setting daft, evidence-defying targets, they must also learn from the likes of Gavin Scott, the Scotland team manager, when he spoke after the World Cup draw of an objective of inspiring the next generation. Technically that does not rule out winning the tournament since it would clearly achieve Scott's desired goal. However, his phraseology was far more considered, intelligent and, indeed, strategic and represented a genuinely achievable target other than that of his bosses when they claimed, on the back of wins over Australia – in bizarre circumstances – Fiji and Samoa that Scotland can win the next World Cup.

Ahead of getting down to that very difficult business of picking their way through the failed initiatives and structures that have been constructed at Murrayfield in the last decade and more, the board must get things right in the short-term or be made, by the clubs, to face the consequences.

There is no easy fix to Scotland's problems but what supporters believe they are not seeing and hearing enough of is the need for the passion for the cause that has often allowed the whole to be far greater than the sum of individual parts in the past.

Summoning up that quality would, in itself, do much to offer the inspiration Scott is aiming for, to which end it was striking that immediately after Andy Robinson resigned as head coach last month there was such widespread consensus in the reaction from those who have demonstrated that quality in the past.

From Andy Nicol, the 2000 Calcutta Cup winning captain, to 1990 Grand Slam winning colleagues Craig Chalmers and Gary Armstrong, to 70s' legend Jim Renwick, the call was for Sean Lineen to be appointed.

Little wonder when, by way of comparison, it is far from merely initials that the old Kilted Kiwi shares with Lancaster. No other coach in the Scottish game has come through the ranks as he has and, as well as his achievements with an under-resourced Glasgow Warriors team – surely the best possible preparation for what is required with Scotland – he knows the players better than anyone.

A resident of the capital city who made his name, in Scotland at least, with Boroughmuir, he brought to the top flight of the domestic game both Mike Blair and Chris Cusiter while he was coaching the Edinburgh club. During his long stint at Glasgow he then maximised his budget by unearthing one nugget after another, the likes of Rory Lamont, Max Evans and, at the other end of the glamour scale, Jon Welsh, Ryan Grant and Mike Cusack all taking highly unlikely routes into full-time rugby.

That understanding can at least give him a chance of getting the best out of the national squad immediately rather than us having to endure yet another string of pleas for time for coaches and players to come to terms with one another.

In which context it was rather unfortunate that the SRU last night issued a statement which, among other things, confirmed that Lineen would be coaching Scotland's under-20 team this season.

I am assured that we should read nothing into that relating to the Scotland head coach's job and accept that is so.

Whatever arguments the SRU hierarchy used to persuade themselves that Lineen was the right man to inspire in the U20s, what is required of Scottish international players would, right now, seem just as applicable to the big job.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

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.

129258