Lions tour: Evans hails class of Sean Maitland

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FORMER All Blacks playmaker Nick Evans has warned of the scoring threat posed by Sean Maitland as he awaits his clash with the British and Irish Lions this weekend.

The Kiwi fly-half will line up for the Barbarians when they face the Lions at Hong Kong Stadium as Warren Gatland’s side play the first match of their tour before heading to Australia.

He is relishing the opportunity to play in a match which he expects to provide the memory of a lifetime and hopes that compatriot Maitland will be selected.

Maitland, a close family friend of Australia international Quade Cooper, qualifies to play for Scotland through his grandparents, though he was born in New Zealand.

Last year, he joined Glasgow Warriors from the Crusaders and was drafted into the Lions squad after impressing in his first five Scotland appearances.

“A lot of people probably look at Sean Maitland as a bit of a bolter, coming from the Crusaders and then playing for Glasgow, not playing a lot of games for Scotland and then getting into the Lions,” Evans said. “He’s a class player. He proved it with the Crusaders and Canterbury. He can score tries and I’m sure he’ll relish the opportunity when it comes his way for the Lions as well.”

Evans knows how special playing against the British and Irish Lions is – and the New Zealand fly-half is determined to savour the experience. He was in the Otago team which ran the 2005 Lions close, and he was on the bench for the third Test as the All Blacks won the series 3-0, experiences which are among his career highlights.

“It was a fantastic experience – one of my great memories of playing rugby in New Zealand,” added Evans, who won 16 caps for the All Blacks. “I didn’t play a lot in the Test matches, but that game for Otago, the city just went crazy, it was a fantastic tour. There was no motivation needed. The chance to play against the British and Irish Lions almost wrote the team talk itself.

“It was fantastic. Everyone knew the history of the Lions and the chance to play against them in your home town, with your home crowd, really bringing the city together.”

Italy captain Sergio Parisse will skipper the Barbarians on Saturday, leading a team that also includes fellow world stars like Schalk Brits, wing Joe Rokocoko and scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili.

Scotland lock Jim Hamilton, who had been thought of as an outside chance for Lions selection, is named on the Baa-Baas bench after featuring against England last weekend.

BARBARIANS TEAM

v British & Irish Lions at Hong Kong, tomorrow, 12:30pm (UK)

15 Jared Payne

14 Joe Rokocoko

13 Elliot Daly

12 Casey Laulala

11 Takudzwa Ngwenya

10 Nick Evans

9 Dimitri Yachvili

1 Paul James

2 Schalk Brits

3 Martin Castrogiovanni

4 Marco Wentzel

5 Dean Mumm

6 Samu Manoa

7 Sam Jones

8 Sergio Parisse

Replacements: Duncan Jones, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Jim Hamilton, Imanol Harinordoquy, Andrea Lo Cicero, Kahn Fotuali’i, James Hook, Mike Tindall