Twickenham hoodoo? What Twickenham hoodoo? When Scotland venture on to Billy Williams' old cabbage patch on Saturday they will be blooding a player who happens to boast a 100 per cent record there. "Yeah, it was cool," Sean Maitland said yesterday, recalling his one and only appearance at England's HQ. "We won. We scored 44 points. And I got two tries."
Scotland might have last beaten the auld enemy in south-west London back in the mists of 1983 but their debutant right-winger savoured victory there in March 2011. Mind you, Maitland was playing for the Crusaders that day – in a Super 15 contest against the Sharks, transported to Twickenham to aid the Christchurch earthquake appeal. Richie McCaw was on the injured list but his team still boasted the likes of Dan Carter, Israel Dagg, Kieran Reid, Brad Thorn and Sonny Bill Williams.
At that time, Maitland – born in Tokoroa, a small town near Hamilton that also spawned Richard Kahui, Keven Mealamu and Isaac Boss – harboured ambitions of making his senior international debut in the All Black jersey.
Having failed to make the home grade, however, the former New Zealand Under-19 and Under-20 back-three player has made use of his Caledonian family heritage to become the latest in a long line of kilted Kiwis, stretching back to Sean Lineen.
After five appearances for Glasgow, the 24-year-old has been fast-tracked straight into Scotland's starting XV for their Six Nations opener – thanks to the Scottish qualification given to him by his granddad, Stan, a welder in the Clyde shipyards who emigrated from Glasgow to New Zealand in the 1970s.
"I'm proud of my Scottish heritage," Maitland reflected, after being named as the only new face by the interim head coach, Scott Johnson, in a Scotland team that features Greig Laidlaw at scrum-half (rather than outside-half), Johnnie Beattie at No 8 and Dougie Hall at hooker. "My granddad brought over a Scotch pie-making machine with him. I grew up eating Scotch pies with HP sauce."
Johnson, an Australian himself, made no apologies for selecting a player born, bred and raised in New Zealand – a prolific finisher in the Super 15 who happens to be blessed with 10.8sec 100m speed.
"We can't look in an insular way," Johnson said. "Look at the team we are playing at the weekend. They have probably the largest base of rugby players in the world and they have a substantial number of non-English boys in their squad. This is the reality of professional sport. It's not a reflection on Scotland.
"The reality is that Sean's family are very proud of their Scottish history. He understands that history and he has come here to ply his trade. He's Scottish and I certainly see him as part of that future for Scotland."
If nothing else, Maitland will bring a keen sense of perspective to the pressure cooker of the international arena. He was caught in the middle of the earthquake that struck Christchurch two years ago. "I was injured at the time, but when the earthquake hit I just ran," he recalled. "That was a very scary day."
Maitland also survived the day his cousin chased him at primary school wielding a chair. Quade Cooper was brought up in Tokoroa with Maitland before emigrating to Australia. "Yeah, he was chasing me, trying to smash me with this little chair," Maitland said of the Wallaby fly-half cum pro boxer. "I just ran away from him."
Now that he will be running down the wing in the Scotland No 14 shirt on Saturday afternoon, the freshly-kilted Kiwi will have the chance to succeed where his former Crusaders team-mates Carter and McCaw failed in the last international held at Twickenham.Reuse content