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Beaten Saracens explain how pre-game injury has retired Sean Maitland

By Liam Heagney
Saracens' Sean Maitland (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Mark McCall has sifted through the ashes of a terrible Saturday for Saracens where not only did a limp 10-20 defeat to Sale cost them a home semi-final in the Gallagher Premiership, a pre-match injury suffered by the retiring Sean Maitland ended his career a couple of weeks early.

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The London club announced on Friday the 35-year-old former Scotland winger would hang up his boots at the end of the 2023/24 season.

However, he won’t get to say an on-pitch farewell in the league play-offs following an agonising pre-match round 18 injury sustained in a collision at StoneX Stadium with teammate Elliot Daly.

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Maitland was due to start in place of Rotimi Segun, who picked up a hamstring issue during the week, but damage to his knee shortly before the kick-off ruled him out versus Sale.

It has since emerged that the damage is so bad that Maitland is now retired and won’t be available for the semi-final at Northampton on May 31.

Fixture
Gallagher Premiership
Saracens
10 - 20
Full-time
Sale
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“He has hurt his knee,” confirmed a downbeat McCall. “I think it is a PCL which is so cruel for someone like Sean who has given this club so much.

“Rotimi Segun was meant to play and he pulled his hamstring in training and Sean was somebody we could rely on. We all know how good he is in these big games and to end his career in that manner…

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“What I saying to Sean in the changing room there is he doesn’t need to play one more game or two more games for Saracens. His legacy with the club is incredible. He is an unbelievable person, an unbelievable teammate to everyone who has been here, so he didn’t need to play another game.”

Alex Lewington, who started at short notice for Maitland, gifted Sale the converted Rob du Preez try that put the Manchester club 3-20 ahead, a margin that Saracens could only close to 10 points by full-time.

The bonus-less loss enabled Sale to jump into third while Saracens fell from second to fourth, sending them on the road in the play-offs rather than hosting a knockout match. “We were poor today, outplayed, out-enthuse if we are honest,” admitted McCall.

“That’s a difficult thing to say with what was at stake. You had that little thing at the back of your mind because everything was on the line for them [Sale] and we had the safety net of already being there (semi-final qualified) and was that going to play a role.

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“It shouldn’t have but it certainly looked like their want, you saw how enthusiastic they were. If that is the case that is disappointing.

“I thought some of our bench added a real energy but we made a lot of mistakes in that period as we tried to force things and probably got a little bit desperate, but at least we gave it a go. It’s not what we wanted.

“But I suppose our number one strength this year as a group has been responding to setbacks and disappointing performances like that very well and our next performance being really strong because of the honesty in the group.

“We are going to need to do that, there are no more second chances. We need to respond strongly to what happened today.”

Looking ahead to the Franklin’s Gardens trip, he added: “It’s going to be a tough game. They have played fantastically this year.

“But we have got a group here that is very capable and can produce big, big, big performances and we have got two weeks to try to manage to do that.”

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Flankly 11 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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