Saracens winger Sean Maitland is hoping to go up against his “good mate” Tommy Seymour in Sunday’s European Champions Cup quarter-final and admits that such a showdown would be a unique all-Scottish match-up for a potential Lions place.
Glasgow travel to face the European champions in London this weekend and Maitland is relishing the meeting with a club where he spent three happy years before moving to London Irish. The New Zealand-born Scotland international subsequently signed for Sarries and has made the most of the big move by nailing down a regular place with Europe’s leading club.
Lions coach Warren Gatland is a fan of Maitland’s, they both went to Hamilton Boys High School, and he took the wing on the 2013 tour of Australia. He has been mentioned in dispatches again ahead of next month’s squad announcement but so too has Seymour, who has cemented his reputation as one of Europe’s best finishers in both a Glasgow and Scotland jersey this season.
“When you get to this stage of the season and it’s a big game there are always going to be these [Lions] match-ups all over the place,” said Maitland. “I’m sure the boys won’t be worrying about that sort of stuff, but if I make the team hopefully I’ll be up against my good mate Tommy, which should be a lot of fun. Obviously you think about the Lions, but I try and think about it as a normal game and go through my processes and my plan.”
If Glasgow do pull off a famous win at Allianz Park, Maitland doesn’t expect to get too much grief from his opposite number, though fears others won’t be so merciful.
“Tommy’s not like that, but there are other guys who might take the piss,” said Maitland. “And if Tommy skipped around me the worst abuse would be from my own team-mates.”
Maitland was in the Scotland camp when he learned that it was to be Saracens v Glasgow in the last eight and he said: “My first reaction was excitement. I was with all the Scotland boys, so there was a bit of banter flowing around the changing room – [defence coach] Matt Taylor was the main one. But it was all harmless, they’re good boys. It made me realise what would happen if we lose – I don’t even want to think about that.”
He may have moved on with his career, but Maitland has savoured watching his former club’s recent successes, culminating in the historic run in Europe this season, although he hopes it has now gone far enough. “They’ve been absolutely class,” said Maitland, who missed the Warriors’ Pro12 title win in his last season through a shoulder injury. “They’ve played the best style of attacking rugby in the whole of Europe. It’s been great to watch them play, and score tries.
“Obviously it’s been good to see them progress through Europe, especially as I was there for three years and coming up just shy in my last year was tough to take. But I know a lot of the guys so I’m just happy they’ve ticked that box and got through into the European knockout stages.”
Maitland admits that his former club’s stunning 43-0 win away at Leicester in the last game of the pool stage caught the attention of his colleagues at the English and European champions.
“Yeah, that was a hell of a game,” said Maitland. “Everyone here thought it was going to be a lot closer than it was, although Glasgow needed to win to qualify so they really showed up. Leicester were going through their own problems and had obviously already been knocked out, but to go to Welford Road and win was a hell of a result.”
Maitland is expecting Sunday’s game to be an open, exciting affair and added: “You might have seen the game at the weekend [Sarries beat Bath 53-10 at Allianz Park] when we chucked the ball around more than people are used to seeing us do. I’m sure the Glasgow team are going to come down with an attacking mindset.”