Maitland: Ready and raring to go
Scoring tries looks as natural as breathing to Scotland winger Sean Maitland. It’s how he started his Scotland career, crossing the whitewash against England at Twickenham in the nation’s opening match of the 2013 RBS 6 Nations Championship.
In his 36 subsequent international appearances he’s scored a further ten tries, including tries against Fiji and Argentina in the 2018 Autumn Tests. Now aged 30, his appetite for putting points on the board for his team remains undiminished.
He was rested rather than being selected for Scotland’s 2018 summer tour, a decision he initially found hard to take. “I really wanted to play,” he said. “I got the phone call from Gregor (Townsend) to say we’re going to blood some new boys in and I was like ‘come on, I really want to play and get as many caps as I can. “I’m 30 years old now and you never know (what can happen) with the sport we’re in, but when it did sink in that I wasn’t going, I had my first proper summer off.
“For five weeks I didn’t train, I ate what I wanted and spent time with the kids – it was great.”
As a result, he said he felt fresh and well-rested going into the new season. Maitland plays his club rugby for Saracens, who have enjoyed a storming start to the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership. Prior to the 2018 Autumn Tests, Maitland featured in five of their six wins from six, scoring tries against Gloucester and Bath. He joined the club from London Irish back in 2016, having previously been with Glasgow Warriors. As well as putting in some fine performances on the field for Saracens, Maitland is involved in their offfield community and charity projects as well.
“It’s great to be part of Sarries,” he said. “I was actually at the school opening and we were the first official team in any sport to open a school, the Saracens High School. A lot of what happens now stems from over ten years ago when a bit of a revolution happened at Saracens. It wasn’t the biggest club, but it was all about making memories and treating people well. With the success that’s come those values have stayed the same.”
Maitland says that the coaches and leadership group of the London-based club drive the core values and these values are at the heart of how the team plays and how they treat each other off the field.
As of November 2018, Saracens were sitting at the top of their Heineken Champions Cup pool, having enjoyed victories over Lyon and Glasgow Warriors. Their visit to Scotstoun stadium in October to face the Warriors was something of a homecoming for Maitland, but he says that he was pleased that the 3-13 final score went in Saracens favour.
“Coming into the first Scotland camp in St Andrews off the back of playing Glasgow, it was a relief actually that we had won the game, All I was thinking about was ‘if we lose I’m going to get a hard time’.”
In fact he was welcomed back into the fold of the Scotland camp for the November tests and says it was great to catch up with all the players he hadn’t seen since the NatWest 6 Nations.That tournament was a successful one for Scotland, with three wins and a third place finish. Maitland played his role in those wins, crossing the whitewash three times, including the try against England that began with ‘that pass’ of Finn Russell’s and which was subsequently nominated for World Rugby’s Try of the Year.
His consistency as a try-scorer, speed, and versatility in being able to play across the back line has seen Maitland feature regularly in the Scotland squad since making his debut. Having started every match of the 2013 RBS 6 Nations Championship and performing well for club and country Maitland was rewarded with selection for the British & Lions tour of Australia later that year. Two years later he was included in the 31-man Scotland squad for Rugby World Cup 2015, where he featured in four out of five games, scoring against USA and starting against Australia in the quarter-final at Twickenham. With all this experience under his belt and several new faces joining the Scotland squad on the back of the summer tour, Maitland is now one of the team’s senior players.
“I’m 30 but I still feel good,” he said. “I’m still running fast, although these kids like Blair (Kinghorn) and Darcy (Graham), they’re sometimes running rings around me. They push you with the energy they give on and off the pitch, it’s great.”
Having taken part in one Rugby World Cup, Maitland has his sights set on being part of the squad that will travel to Japan next Autumn. “It’s the pinnacle of our sport and I’m not looking too far past it,” he said. “Obviously you take each game as it comes, but I wouldn’t be lying if I said that if I can get to the World Cup I’d be a happy man.”