Maitland eyes Lions

Sean Maitland went to the same school as Warren Gatland - now he aims to follow him to Australia. [more]

Maitland eyes Lions

Sean Maitland went to the same school as Warren Gatland – now he aims to follow him to Australia.

The wing qualified for Scotland due to his grandparents and after impressing in the RBS 6 Nations he is eying a place on this summer’s Lions tour.

And we will have another chance to impress during Saturday’s Championship clash with Wales – a match in which he will face fellow Lions contenders George North and Alex Cuthbert.

“Definitely,” Maitland said after being asked if playing for the Lions was a target.

“It’s one of my goals, for sure.

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“You’ve just got to play well for your country and if it happens then it happens. We’ve got to keep winning, and then hopefully a few of the boys in the team will get noticed by Gatland. But, yeah, it’s definitely a goal.”

Maitland, related to ‘Smoking’ Joe Stanley, always appeared destined to represent the All Blacks.

He played for New Zealand Schools, Under19s and Under20s before going on to establish himself in Super Rugby with the Crusaders.

But after his All Black aspirations were hit by a succession of injury blows he made the difficult decision to pledge allegiance to Scotland.

And he reckons he is reaping the rewards.

“You want to make the All Blacks. As a little kid playing rugby and growing up in New Zealand, that’s what you dream about – but it just wasn’t meant to be.

“But, it’s funny, one door closes and another one opens.

“There are a lot of talented players, especially in the back three, in New Zealand.

“Things weren’t going to plan last year, so I talked to a few people – my family, my agent – and we drew a line in the sand and said it was the right time to move and hopefully have an opportunity to play for Scotland.

“I could have waited for another year. I could have given it another crack in Super Rugby.

“But I thought it was the best move for me and I’m happy to say it has paid off.

“But this is just the start of it. I still want to prove myself a bit more.”

Maitland is also a cousin of Kiwi-born Quade Cooper, a player he could face in the summer if selected for the Lions.

Cooper became national enemy number one after opting to play for Australia and Maitland admits it was something to consider.

“He was a little bit hard done by,” added Maitland. “I don’t want to stick my nose in too much, but I think the New Zealand public could have laid off him a little bit during the World Cup. Every time he touched the ball he got booed – that’s not really cool.

“But I think there is a difference between Australia and Scotland. I think out of all the countries, Scotland has probably got the most connections with New Zealand.

“If I said I was going to try to play for England, I would have got a few bad looks, but everyone was real supportive about what I was trying to do.

“I have no regrets leaving. I’ve proved myself in New Zealand.

“I was top try scorer in 2010 and 2011, I played over half a century of games, I won a title in 2008 and I played for the New Zealand Maori teams who beat the English and the Irish. I’m happy with what I achieved over there.”

And the wing reckons his game has improved and developed since joining Glasgow and then representing Scotland.

“One thing I’ve improved over here is my defence. Back home we attack more because the conditions are a bit better.

“Over here there is more close-quarter combat so we really need to work hard on our defence.”

And that is something that Maitland believes will be key in the Championship clash with Wales.

“They have a class backline. They will have watched the tape of Ireland breaking through us a couple of times, so I think they will definitely come into this game with an attacking mindset.

“Wales will be tough opposition, but we are starting to understand each other. It’s all about building trust.

“We’re now in with a chance of winning the championship and the self-belief amongst the team is growing.

“There isn’t any secret formula to winning: it’s all about preparing well and doing the small things correctly.”

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