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'So much more to his game': Scotland's loss is Saracens' gain

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)

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It’s nearly eleven months since Sean Maitland won the last of his 53 Scotland caps but Saracens can’t get enough of their 33-year-old winger whose glowing current form was evident when he scored a crucial try in last Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership win over Harlequins. Having started in the March 2021 Guinness Six Nations win over Italy, the Kiwi was excluded for the following week’s rearranged match versus France.

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With the new date for the fixture falling outside the World Rugby window governing Test player release, it left the Scottish Rugby Union striking a deal with Premiership Rugby for the release of a maximum of five English-based players for that game.

This resulted in Maitland not being one of the five chosen by Scotland boss Gregor Townsend to travel. He hasn’t played since and has decided in recent weeks to put family life ahead of international rugby for the moment after frustrations when training last month with his country at Oriam. 

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“I spoke to Gregor Townsend and told him I didn’t want to travel north and be away from Nava and the kids if I was only going to be holding tackle bags,” Maitland recently told the Saracens website. “I’m never going to retire from international rugby, but I understand he is looking towards the 2023 World Cup.

“I’m gutted I’m not in the Scottish squad and any chance I get to put my hand up for selection I will do so. I still think I’m in good enough shape to play at that level.”

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That view was endorsed this week by Saracens head coach Joe Shaw at the club’s midweek media briefing. “He is brilliant, isn’t he? Sean is performing absolutely week in week out when he has got the opportunity at the highest level and he is an absolute pleasure to coach. He is one of the most coachable people I have ever come across and there is no surprise that he is putting in performances like he is,” he said when quizzed by RugbyPass about the current form of the veteran.  

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“He is someone that scores tries of course but there is so much more to his game, his physicality, his understanding of what to do in defence at different times, just that international experience. He has been around a number of years, Sean, not only the domestic but the international front.

“Having that kind of experience in our back three with the likes of Alex Lewington, the likes of Alex Goode, Rotimi Segun coming to the fold, he is brilliant and what I see week in week out is a man that just shows what he is like as a person with the amount of time that he gives to our youngsters coming through, the likes of Ben Harris who is learning his trade. 

“Sean is someone they can go to, feel really comfortable to be around and he gives them the best possible advice for them to go onto the training park and try and learn from.”

Asked about the current situation Maitland has with Scotland, Shaw added: “I wouldn’t say we have had big conversions about it but everybody wants to play for their country. Until you say you have retired that is something that you want to do whatever country that is and I don’t think Sean would be any different.”

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