Maitland the survivor of Christchurch horror

New Zealander who lived through earthquake prepares for Twickenham

It will be classified as a shock, no doubt, if Scotland manage to open their Six Nations campaign with a win at Twickenham next Saturday. Not since 1983 have they beaten England in south-west London. But the latest New Zealander lined up to make a debut for the Scots knows all about real earth-shattering experiences. Sean Maitland was at home, making poached eggs for lunch, when the Christchurch earthquake struck on Tuesday 22 February 2011.

"That was a very scary day," the wing-cum-full-back recalls, sitting in his Scotland training kit following a prolonged afternoon workout on the pitch at Scotstoun Stadium in the west end of Glasgow. "Have you ever been through an earthquake? You don't want to."

He adds: "I was with a few of the other Crusaders boys hanging out in our house, basically an old place made of plaster. Then the earthquake hit and it just felt like the whole house was going to fall down on top of us in a split second.

"I was injured at the time – I had a problem with my foot – but when the earthquake hit I just ran. You're supposed to get under a table or something hard but, man, I just shot out the door and I was running like I never had an injury in my life. I was sprinting.

"Our area wasn't hit too badly but my partner worked in the city in an eight-storey building so straight away I was worried about her. I just ran to the city but couldn't get all that far in there.

"It was frightening. I ran past one of the buildings that people died in, seeing bodies on the side of the street. There were people dead in their cars, buildings having fallen on them. It was a rough day, one I'll never forget. I can't explain it. Once you've been through an earthquake of that magnitude you'll be able to understand what I'm trying to say. We got used to it, though. There were so many aftershocks that it sort of became the norm. I was lucky because I didn't lose anybody, but plenty did.''

That day 185 people died as a quake measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale struck New Zealand's second most populous city. Maitland neglects to say that he spent much of the aftermath searching for casualties and then, in the days that followed, helping clear the rubble.

At the time Maitland was the top try-scorer in the Super 15 and, seven months out from the home World Cup, was still being talked about as an All Black in the making. A star of the "Baby Blacks" New Zealand teams who won the Under-19 and Under-20 World Championships, he picked up his form when the Crusaders hit the road – without a home stadium to play in – bagging two tries as Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Co beat the Natal Sharks 44-28 in a memorable Super 15 try-fest at Twickenham.

When it came to the selection crunch, however, Maitland failed to make the All Black cut. It was then that he started to consider switching allegiance to the land of his grandfather, Stan Maitland, a welder in the Glasgow shipyards who emigrated to New Zealand in the 1970s.

Last autumn he joined Glasgow Warriors, and the smart money is on the 24-year-old making his Scotland debut in the Six Nations opener at Twickenham. "I'm so blessed that I have this opportunity," he says. "I'm proud of my Scottish heritage. My granddad and my dad always reminded me that I was part Scottish and that I should never forget it. My granddad brought over a Scottish pie machine with him. I grew up eating Scottish pies with HP sauce."

Maitland did his growing up in Tokora, a small town just south of Hamilton. "It's a rough place," he says, "but a lot of good rugby players have come out of there: Richard Kahui, Quade Cooper, Keven Mealamu, Isaac Boss."

Cooper, the native Kiwi who has become a feisty Wallaby fly-half and has dabbled in boxing, is Maitland's cousin. "We grew up together in Tokora," Maitland says. "We're pretty close.

"I remember at primary school he used to lose the plot quite easily. He was an angry boy at school. I remember him chasing me around with this little chair in his hand. He was trying to smash me with a chair."

What had the future Kilted Kiwi done to upset the future Boxing Wallaby? "Oh, I was quite cheeky at school," he confesses. "I could just run away, because I was pretty fast." Quade Cooper's cousin still is pretty nifty, as England may well discover.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
News
i100
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club that later became synonymous with Hillsborough has dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor