Glasgow v Biarritz: Lineen's Warriors fight for black and blue

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The Independent Online

As the debate in England intensifies over the influx of All Black bounty hunters, a New Zealander in Scotland is demonstrating that migration can have mutual benefits. Sean Raymond Patrick Lineen was born in Auckland on Christmas Day 1961 but regards Edinburgh as his home.

Arguably the first of the kilted Kiwis, Lineen has been in Auld Reekie for 19 years. "I love it. I love the weather, the people, everything about it." Not that it was a conscious move. Long before the game went professional, Lineen, like thousands of his countrymen, travelled around Europe with his rugby boots. "I enjoyed a season at Pontypool before ending up in Edinburgh. It was a total fluke."

Lineen joined Boroughmuir in 1989 and three months later won the first of 29 caps for Scotland, forming an impressive centre partnership with Scott Hastings. How did he become an honorary Scot? "I remembered my mum's maiden name was Macdonald and discovered that my grandfather came from Stornoway." His father Terry, an All Black centre, played against the 1959 British Lions.

When, in 1997, Lineen stopped playing for Boroughmuir, where he was recognised as an astute playmaker, they asked him to coach the club and it was the start of a new career. Last season he was made head coach of Glasgow Warriors and today they play the bluebloods of Biarritz in a key Heineken Cup tie.

"This is the biggest game I've ever been involved in as a coach," he said. "I've had a good look at Biarritz and they're a formidable outfit. Their style is more English than French. To win they seem to have the ability to go up a gear but coming to Glasgow will be a new experience for them. If we can get the crowd behind us and get in their faces... we have nothing to be afraid of. This is a great opportunity."

First of all they have to get a crowd. Like a set of punctured bagpipes, the game in Scotland was dragged screeching into the professional era and after the demise of Borders last season, they are down to just two teams, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Warriors, in a city obsessed by Celtic and Rangers, play at Firhill Arena, home of Patrick Thistle.

"Pro rugby in Scotland is a real challenge. Ideally we should have four teams not two but at the moment it's not financially viable. The thing is, there are still a lot of followers out there."

Glasgow lost their opening cup match 33-31 at Saracens but a bonus-point win over Viadana had them level with the London club. Lineen, with justifiable pride, refers to "Fortress Firhill", where the Warriors have not lost in almost a year. Nobody welcomes the Glasgow kiss.

The stand-off Dan Parks takes over the captaincy from the injured Alastair Kellock. "Dan is in tremendous form and has been the heartbeat of the team in recent weeks," Lineen said. "In front of him our back row has been on fire. I expect a real battle in that department."

Lineen who, with new Edinburgh coach Andy Robinson, has been appointed to coach Scotland A commutes to Glasgow from Edinburgh where he and his wife Lynne, a Scot, are raising two rugby-mad young sons. He wants them to play in the blue of Scotland rather than the black of New Zealand.

Last week Lineen went to Ayr and won 70 on the horses. "I took it as an omen," he said. If the Warriors beat Biarritz, Glasgow will be at the races.

Watch Glasgow against Biarritz today on Sky Sports 2 from 1pm

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