Super 6 will not be a development league, insists Sean Lineen

Former Scotland centre and Glasgow Warriors coach urges doubters to judge new league after teething problems have been dealt with

Sean Lineen on Super 6
Sean Lineen is head of 'on-field development' of Super 6. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

STAGE 3 ACADEMY PLAYERS will start at least half the Super 6 games they are available for. A provision was included in the Super 6 ‘dual participation protocol’ which was issued earlier this month to allow academy players to be drafted down to Premiership clubs in order to get game time if required, but Sean Lineen – head of ‘on-field development’ for the new league – says he doesn’t expect that to be a regular occurrence.

“It has been agreed with the Super 6 coaches that the 30 stage three players will start a minimum of half the games they are available for,” stated Lineen at a media briefing this morning [Tuesday], before revealing that the allocation of the youngsters, who will be split evenly between the six competing franchises, is to be confirmed at a meeting of Super 6 coaches tomorrow [Wednesday].

Lineen was asked if there was a danger that the competitiveness of the league would be compromised by the creation of this quota system. “No, I’m confident that the balance of the squads will be right,” he replied.

“Given the number of injuries, I’d say we’ll need players, more than players needing game time, I would think,” he added, when asked about the possibility that some members of the 35-man squads might struggle to get competitive action.

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Despite the decision by a number of leading Premiership figures such as Shawn Muir of Hawick and Tommy Spinks of Ayr to turn down the opportunity to play in the new league, Lineen insisted that Super 6 will not end up a de facto under-23 development tier.

“I don’t think so,” he stated. “Looking at the squads as they are coming together, there is quite a lot of players in that 23 to 28 bracket. In year one or two there will be players who are looking at it from the Premiership and feel they can’t make that commitment, but as things move forward and it develops – with other countries perhaps becoming involved, the finance going up and so on – that should change.

“They [the coaches] are competitive beasts and they want to win. We want to improve the standard collectively and consistently across the season – if you look at the Heriot’s and Ayr games [this season], they were outstanding matches and we want that week-in and week-out. It is really important that it is a spectacle that people want to come and watch.

“They [the players] are not going to be training full-time every day. You’re looking at two or three conditioning sessions, either early morning or in the evening; an extra skill session on a Monday night, which some of the clubs already do but this will be a little bit more focussed with some extra support from specialist skills staff; and the occasional Sunday to do a flush session or an analysis session.

“So, it is just about trying to bridge that gap between amateur and understanding what the environment looks like if you want to go towards professional.

“I’d like to think that it will be a high level more consistently, but there’s no doubt about it, it’s going to take time. It’s not going to be perfect. We’ll look back at year one and two and decide what we need to change and improve on, so that we get the product right.

“At the moment all six clubs are way down the track with their recruitment, looking at a mixture of youth and experience,” he added. “We understand that there are players in the Premiership who have decided and will decide that super 6 is not for them. That’s fine. The door stays open, but we understand.”

Reinforcements from the south

Lineen added that the calibre of playing resources in Super 6 has been bolstered by a significant number of Scottish qualified players currently based outside the country choosing to throw their lot in with the new league because they see it as a vehicle to earn a full-time contract with either Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors.

“There are a fair number of SQ [Scottish qualified] players now looking to come back into Scotland,” he said. “I could name 10 now who are coming back in. I’m actually really excited about these players. They are doing it for the right reasons, maybe not the money at the moment but to put themselves in the shop window for the professional game in Scotland. These are guys who are in their mid-20s, playing in National One or the Championship [in England], and thinking they really fancy having a stab at it.”

Making your own rules

The creation of a brand-new league offers the Scottish Rugby Union the opportunity to do things differently in order to give the game in this country ‘an edge’, and with that in mind Lineen revealed that they are looking at trialling law variations and a major overhaul in season structure.

“The coaches are meeting the referees tomorrow about how we can shape the game – perhaps introducing an innovative law or two – to look at the Scottish angle,” he explained.

“The consistency of the games, playing the ‘Scottish way’, is really important. I’m also heading up the ‘technical blueprint’ and we want to have that ‘Scottish way’. Speed is a big part of that so we want to align these teams. Obviously, they are going to have their own little ways of coaching, as you would expect, but it is playing a way that gets the fans through the door.”

From April to November…

As for season structure, it has already been announced that, as this is a World Cup year, the first game in the domestic competition will not be until 9th November [after two friendlies] and this part of the season will run through to the play-off final on 28th March, with gaps over Christmas, New Year and Six Nations weekends. This section of the season will consist of home and away matches against every other team in the league, before first in the table play fourth and second play third in the play-off semi-finals, with the winner of those two matches meeting in the final. Meanwhile, the fifth and sixth placed teams in the league will play a double-header against each other to avoid bottom spot, which makes sure that each team plays the same number of matches.

It has now been confirmed that the cross-border element of the new tier, played against Welsh Premiership clubs, will run for six games over seven weeks from 18th April to 30th May in season one, with every Scottish team playing each of the Welsh participants once (either home or away) in a straight league format. From season two onwards, as fixture congestion eases post World Cup, play-off semi-finals and a final will be added to the schedule.

That means that ultimately each Super 6 team will play 20 competitive games – 10 in the regular domestic league season, two domestic play-offs, six cross-border league games and two cross-border play-offs.

The plan in season two is to bring the launch of the domestic Super 6 section forward to mid-August to run through to early November, with the cross-border games launching in mid-April running through to the end of May. Essentially, this heralds the creation of two mini seasons within the 12-month calendar, with a two-month break in the summer and a four-and-a-half month break in the winter.

Welsh wizards

Welsh club rugby is also in a state of flux at the moment, with the WRU imposing drastic cuts in support, and league/season structure the focus of a furious debate. Despite this, Lineen believes the strong relationship between the two countries makes this cross-border format an ideal fit.

“I think it’s the right one,” he said. “We have a good relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union through the national age-grade teams – we do a lot of work with them now. Our [Under-16] academy sides went down and played their four academies during the Easter break which was fantastic. Our Under-18s and Under-19s are now playing them every year in December, and the Under-20s usually have a warm-up game before the World Cup. So, I think there is a real affinity with Welsh rugby. We speak to each other a lot about how we can improve things. So, we are delighted to be involved with the Welsh at Super 6 level.

“I think they are at a higher level than us at the moment, but that’s not a bad thing, it is an opportunity for us to improve.

“It is really important that the standard of rugby is improved right across the board. I’ve watched quite a few Welsh club games now and it is a pretty good standard – the Merthyr versus Cardiff game was exceptional – so that’s going to be a step up and we are going to have to make sure we are ready for that.”

Lineen was unable to shed any light on the prospect of a TV deal being secured by the SRU to help promote the new league. “I know they’re working really hard on that – I can’t comment 100 per cent on what’s happening, but they are working really hard on it,” he said.

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About David Barnes 4011 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Despite the likeable Sean Lineen’s protestations, ‘Super’ 6 will be, in effect, an endless series of SRU practice matches in which six Dodson-Defeated XVs will play amongst each other no fewer than four times, coached by six SRU employees empowered to swap players from team to team, more or less as and when they please. (The six other matches against strife-torn, cost-cutting Welsh sides are hardly enticing.)
    Our six former Premiership clubs have each lamely conceded to the SRU hijackers not only ultimate control of their best club players, but also the (cosmetic) use of their club names, club traditions, and club colours, as well as the (financially-valuable) use of their club pitches and dressing rooms – not to mention £62,500 of their own hard-raised club funds paid towards ‘their’ players’ wages every season (unless, like so many other S6 details, this sum has also changed). The SRU take-over is virtually complete.
    However, club spectators might not prove quite such willing SRU hostages. After the repeated boredom of watching, say, an unfamiliar, frequently-changing Dodson-Defeated One XV playing the Dodson-Defeated Two XV, then playing the Dodson-Defeated Three XV, then the Four XV, then Five and Six – over and over and over again – it seems highly probable that traditional club supporters will vote with their feet, and follow instead the fortunes of their own amateur club teams playing good rugby for the sheer love of it, against both old and new rivals.
    Mr Dodson alleged that the Premiership was ‘not fit for purpose’, despite our current system – with no ‘Super’ 6 – producing truly excellent Scotland, Edinburgh and Glasgow performances. Honest, well-intentioned rugby men tried to resist but, notwithstanding, the SRU Chief Executive bullied through his personal vanity project. So it now seems slightly ironic that Heriot’s vs Ayr matches are being used by the SRU’s Head of On-field Development as Premiership quality benchmarks to which ‘Super’ 6 teams should aspire.

  2. This contrived S6 invention, by a dubious person at the SRU, who has now left the country (and back in his homeland has been banging the drum for a club-based national development structure not dissimilar to our old much-missed District set-up) is a deeply flawed model, subject to considerable “policy on the hoof”, fundamentally corrupted by the manner of its introduction and by the inexplicably strange allocation of franchises.
    The original S6 prospectus has long since been cast to the four winds of slippery SRU vacillation, and at every turn there is confirmation that “they” are making it up as “they” stumble along, on expenses, from sandwich lunches to bacon butties and post-match feasts…. Serious questions arise regarding finance, aggressive player recruitment (almost certain to trigger a crippling upward migration of players from lower-placed clubs throughout the grassroots system) overstretched administrative resources & organisational capability within the franchised clubs, while the uncertainty of proposed cross-border competition and seasonal feasibility already dog the footsteps of this hare-brained charter for the few self-interested and the over-ambitious megalomaniacs running the favoured six. Well, whatever effusive nonsense and party-line drivel being peddled by them, the SRU and the usual gullible gaggle of media acolytes, they will have a job on their hands to avoid the buffers of reality!
    A return to the tried and tested semi-professional District model of some 20 years ago, retaining traditional, historical links with regionally-based clubs, allowing players to continue to train and occasionally play for their clubs of origin would have been infinitely more worthwhile. Our old pal Sean would know a lot about this, and it probably bothers him in those dark quiet personal moments – because a version of the District system has been working pretty well for decades in his original homeland, the Land of the Long White Cloud (largely populated as some might say by expat Scots who have learned how to win – or perhaps just not to lose – consistently!).

    • Dreaded Silver Croc O’Dile says:
      15 May 2019 at 4:24 pm

      ‘A return to the tried and tested semi-professional District model of some 20 years ago, retaining traditional, historical links with regionally-based clubs, allowing players to continue to train and occasionally play for their clubs of origin would have been infinitely more worthwhile.’

      Yes, bringing back the old inter-district championship would be a good and popular move and give promising players a chance to showcase their talents. But it was never going to happen and the serial critics on here need to pin the blame on the right part of the donkey’s anatomy. Despite clubs and the SRU being in favour, there was a serious obstacle: the Premier 1 forum and its antecedents have consistently declined to support inter-districts, because they wanted their 22 league/11 home games to generate income and were not willing to release their players for district games. End of. It is a problem of clubs’ making, nobody else’s. A determined AGM could have forced it through and created space in the season by reducing the size of Premier 1, but getting enough clubs to agree on anything sensible is hard work and there is anyway a tremendous deference to the views of the Premier 1 clubs, I know not why.

      It is an exaggeration though to claim that the Inter-Districts would be ‘infinitely’ more worthwhile than the Super 6. Both aim to field the best players from the club game. The idea that the District sides fielded the best available talent from clubs at every level didn’t work quite like that, the bulk of the players came from Premier clubs or the previous N! and N2. However, some players from lower clubs did get an opportunity to shine and some kicked on from there, so in that respect the Districts would be a slightly better option than Super 6. But the Premier clubs put the mockers on inter districts and we are left with S6 as the next best option.

  3. Feel sorry for aspiring players, with the continual uncertainty and tune changing. Which chair do they grab when the music stops?

    They might see little rugby in a stacato season in S6 yet that should be the shop window, and should have the best coaching and support.

    They may lack experienced players to learn from in S6 and should see more games and may gain more learning in the Premiership.

    Who knows how competitive S6, the Premiership and Nat 1 will be until the music stops and the games begin, wonder what odds the bookies would give in these leagues? Will this be harder to forecast if for example the Centrally based Premiership Clubs have a season front loaded with L3 academy boys playing down? The very boys S6 was set up for because the Premiership, now likely to be weaker, was not fit for purpose?

    Already intriguing that the likes of Bryce and Spinks, both very good players and still relatively young are off to Nat 2 rather than S6. At least they are still in the game, although Bryce’s move tends to make a mockery of the secret “Robson Report” on player welfare used to justify Nat 1 for S6 2nd teams. Good on him.

    Hope we don’t hack off too many club players, and lose them to the game, since Scottish Rugby needs players more than at any time in its history.

  4. Roll up roll up! For the most fantastical rugby expo. Test your self at the highest level (small print – other higher levels may be available elsewhere). Initial quality unknown but feel that width!

    As a “doubter” this nonsense from Sean reinforces the doubts that S6 doesn’t know what it’s there for. The idea that folks will use this as a means to a pro contract is interesting. Though I expect the number of folks successful with that journey to be minuscule.

    So no tv deal, guaranteed increased costs for next season but little word on how the S6 entities will raise those funds without also negatively impacting their other sides. Jam tomorrow is not a strategy.

    • How the hang do you build support for this new product if it is “taken off the shelves” for four & a half months every winter.
      SL appears clueless about the commercial needs to attract paying punters, advertisers, TV (in your dreams) coverage with, effectively, 2 annual seasons.

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