SEAN LINEEN will fly back to his native New Zealand on Monday to attend his father’s funeral, but until then the focus is firmly on the Scotland Under-20s team and trying to mastermind a first win of this Six Nations campaign in Italy on Friday night. The old boy – a rugby man to the core – would not have wanted it any other way.
“The funeral is next week, so it is good timing from Dad,” explained the coach. “I can go back [to New Zealand] next week and be back here in time for the France game [a fortnight later].”
Terry Lineen was widely acknowledged as one of the most gifted All Blacks of his era, despite his career being cut short by a serious shoulder injury when he was still only 24 years of age. He made his international debut on tour of Australia in 1957 aged just 20, and went on to play 12 Test matches, and 23 non-cap games, for the All Blacks during the next three years, touring Japan in 1958 with a strong New Zealand Under-23s team, and playing in all four Tests against the 1959 Lions, before picking up that career-ending injury whilst on tour to South Africa in 1960.
He played his provincial rugby for Auckland and coached lower grade rugby with his local club, Marist, after hanging up the boots.
“In one of the newspapers [in New Zealand] he was called the rock-star of the fifties,” said the proud son. “He loved his rugby and was a massive influence on me.
“I think I was quite wild when I was young, and he had his hands full with me through my teens and so on. He challenged me when he needed to, and he was a big supporter as well. He was a really passionate man – loved his sport, loved my wife and my two boys, and was just a great guy with a great sense of humour.
“He was a good All Black – a great All Black – named in a lot of World XVs, and top try scorer on every tour he went on.
“We used to have some great parties at the house in the mid-60s with all these All Black legends there – Wilson Whineray, Colin Meads, Waka Nathan – all around the house listening to Neil Diamond. That’s why I am a big fan of Neil Diamond – because of Dad.”
Lineen junior arrived on these shores to play club rugby with Boroughmuir in the late 1980s, discovered a Scottish qualification through a Hebridean grandfather and ended up picking up 29 caps in his new homeland, including every match of the 1990 Grand Slam season.
“He loved it,” smiled son, when asked how his fiercely proud Kiwi father had coped with having an offspring wearing the thistle. “I remember in 1990 [when Scotland toured New Zealand], him and mum followed us everywhere. They came over for the World Cup in 1991. They were over half a dozen times. Mum died in 2014, and he came over for the World Cup in 2015 and got lost at the airport on the way – but we found him. He had a pretty full life.
“He had as many friends over here as he had back in New Zealand. The emails and texts I’ve had from JJ [John Jeffrey], Gav and Scott [Hastings] and so on – who met him and taken him for beers – that meant a lot to me.
“Although he hadn’t been well for a while, it was still a bit of a shock. The number of messages we’ve had has been unbelievable. The funeral is next week at the Marist Rugby Club, they’re having a guard of honour for him, so it will be fantastic.”