FEATURE: Sean Maitland – Covering All Bases

Sean Maitland’s NatWest 6 Nations’ back catalogue contains its fair share of highs and lows. In 2013 he pulled on the Scotland jersey for the first time against England at Twickenham and scored a try in the process.

He went on to start every match of the Six Nations that year and won a place in the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia. This year he's had a storming tournament so far, scoring tries in the victories over France (pictured below) and England.

From 2014 to 2016 Maitland had the opportunity to make just two Six Nations’ appearances then in 2017 he he made an impact in the matches against Ireland and France before injury curtailed his campaign.

“It’s a very special tournament. It’s probably the toughest rugby tournament 
in the world,” he said.

“There are no easy games. Our draw this year is really tough, going away for Wales, Ireland and Italy.

 “But it’s a very exciting tournament and we've taken a lot of confidence from what we did in the autumn.”

Maitland’s rugby career is a tale of two hemispheres. Born in Tokoroa near Hamilton on New Zealand’s North Island, he won world titles with New Zealand U19 and U20, making his Super Rugby debut in 2008 and scoring 24 competition tries for Canterbury Crusaders.

He moved to Scotland in autumn 2012, committing to the country of his grandparents, both of whom were born in Glasgow.

During his time with Glasgow Warriors he scored ten tries in 39 games, before moving south of the Border to join London Irish and then Saracens, where he is still based today.

Over the last six years Maitland has become a regular in the Scotland team. He featured in four out of five games at Rugby World Cup 2015, scoring against USA and starting against Australia in the quarter-final at Twickenham.

Having missed the 2017 summer tour, he made a welcome return to the Scotland team for the final autumn international against Australia (pictured right).

“I got injured before the autumn so it was touch and go to make the last game,” he said.
 “At first I thought I maybe had a chance to be on the bench, then Gregor said I’d be starting on the wing. Then Hoggy got injured so I was starting at full-back.”

“You could say it was a bit of a rollercoaster week.”

The change of position from wing to full-back came very late in the day after Stuart Hogg pulled up during the warm-up before the Australia game. Maitland coped admirably.

“I hadn’t played full-back in so long, and you do a lot more running at full-back, but when I got my first touch of the ball I soon got back into the swing of things,” he said. “The lungs were working a fair bit in that game.

“It was pretty special to get a great victory over Australia and experience a full house at BT Murrayfield – the place was rocking.”

Three months on, Maitland is relishing the style of rugby being played by the Scotland squad under Head Coach Gregor Townsend. Having scored a try against France then another against England in this year’s NatWest 6 Nations, Maitland is enjoying his time in the blue jersey.

“It’s good to express ourselves and it’s what we want to be doing in the back three.”

“We’ve got some exciting players. I don’t have to name names – people know who we’ve got and how we want to play.”

Maitland says that the coaches come up with tailored game plans for each opposing side. But while the tactics might change from round to round, some aspects of the game remain the same.

He said: “In terms of our blueprint, how we play is to have fun, chuck the ball around with speed and pace and I’m sure that won’t change.”