Rugby: Kilted Kiwis sought to repopulate Scotland

By Chris Barclay

At first glance the "kilted Kiwi" appears an endangered species on the Scottish rugby landscape, but the man first associated with the phrase is determined numbers will build.

Sean Lineen, son of 12-test All Black midfielder Terry, started the trend of New Zealand-born players with Scottish ancestry switching allegiance when their test rugby ambitions were thwarted at home.

Lineen, the Counties centre who qualified for Scotland through his grandfather, arrived in Scotland in 1988 and two years later was a member of the Five Nations Grand Slam-winning side that subsequently toured New Zealand.

He played 29 tests and rather than return home to Papakura, Lineen has settled in Edinburgh where he is in his fifth season as head coach of the neighbouring Glasgow Warriors in the Magners League.

Lineen's decision to pursue a test rugby career in Scotland was mirrored by Shaun Longstaff, Glen Metcalfe, the Leslie brothers John and Martin, Gordon Simpson, Cameron Mather and Brendan Laney, the most controversial acquisition.

Matt Mustchin, who qualified on residency grounds, was the last New Zealander to represent Scotland, appropriately against the All Blacks as a reserve lock at Murrayfield in 2008.

Since then Australians Dan Parks and Nathan Hines - who are both in the squad for tomorrow's (6.15am Sun NZT) test against New Zealand - are the sole surviving antipodeans.

While proud that Scotland does not currently rely on talent developed in New Zealand, Lineen said the Scottish Rugby Union must continue to scout and recruit from the southern hemisphere.

"It definitely is a good sign (the lack of New Zealanders) because our job is to bring young Scottish lads through," he said, before admitting Scotland's development was still stunted by a lack of depth.

"We just haven't got the playing numbers not to continue to look overseas.

"We've got to make sure we leave no stone unturned in every corner of the globe because we haven't got that depth, especially in the outside backs."

Rory and Sean Lamont, who start on the wings against the All Blacks, were groomed in England, likewise the fullback Hugo Southwell.

"I found the Lamont brothers and bought them back up (to Glasgow)," Lineen said.

"You've got to keep looking, the scouting area is one that needs to be improved."

Lineen has not yet studied their lineage but already likes the sound of Canterbury and Crusaders fullback Sean Maitland and Southland's Robbie Robinson.

"There's a few of them," he said of his interest in New Zealand rugby's new generation.

"We need a big advertising campaign down there for people that are Scottish qualified."

Lineen, who has lived in Scotland for 22 years, had no qualms about a New Zealander - with tenuous connections to Scotland - taking precedence over a home grown player.

"It's a professional sport," he emphasised "you have to win and perform."

Lineen admitted Laney's arrival from Otago in 2001 and instantaneous selection in the Scotland squad could have been handled more sensitively by the SRU.

"The way he parachuted in didn't go down too well, he was harshly dealt with by the media," Lineen said.

Laney was eventually embraced, especially in Edinburgh, while Metcalfe - now a fire fighter back in the Waikato - and Martin Leslie are remembered fondly.

Lineen also returned "home" - albeit briefly - during the New Zealand winter to watch the All Blacks play the Springboks at Eden Park and catch up with old Counties mates like Lindsay Raki.

But there will be no doubting where his loyalties lie when joining the tartan army inside Murrayfield.

He will be hoping Scotland's 105-year winless streak will finally end 20 years after he played in a team that got closer than most.

After being well beaten on Carisbrook the Scots outscored the All Blacks two tries to one and led by six at halftime at Eden Park before Grant Fox poked New Zealand in front 21-18 with a contentious penalty awarded after Mike Brewer flattened Gavin Hastings.

"When I bump into Mike Brewer I keep telling him he was offside in that second test," Lineen said, with few lasting regrets.

"I loved that tour. We played some bloody good rugby there off the back of the Grand Slam.

"There were five six world class players in that team," he said, rolling out the surnames in a Kiwi drawl: "Sole, Armstrong, Jeffrey, the Hastings brothers, Calder ...."

Genuine Scots, to a man.

- NZPA

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