SCOTLAND winger Sean Maitland has been urged to step up his workrate if he wants to impress British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland and force his way into the Test line-up.
The New Zealand-born Glasgow Warriors player made his debut in a Lions shirt in Saturday’s 59-6 rout of the Barbarians in Hong Kong.
The 24-year-old’s searing pace was in evidence on occasion and he came close a couple of times to landing a debut try. However, the former Canterbury Crusaders and Maori All Blacks back, who faces stiff competition from Wales pair George North and Alex Cuthbert, and Ireland’s Tommy Bowe on the wing, has been told to showcase his skills by getting more involved in the play.
Dean Ryan, who worked with Maitland as No 2 to interim Scotland coach Scott Johnson during the Six Nations, said: “Gatland does not need fireworks, he needs players who can do their job. Carry the ball, be relentless, keep on getting into the right places and keep on coming. I think there is a bit of a danger of talking up some of the Welsh players but what they have shown is that, if you want to play Lions Test matches under Warren Gatland, then you have to find yourself in these spaces. That is the key challenge.
“Cuthbert is in the form of his life, that is the marker for somebody like Maitland. He looks sharp out on the edges but with Gatland you have got to come looking for work. You have got to turn up in the middle and turn up at nine. From that, something will come.”
Former Lions No 8 Scott Quinnell has called for Maitland to go looking for work at all times.
The Welshman added: “What I would like to see is Maitland come in and help off first phase. Cuthbert has done it a couple of times, I would like to see Maitland carrying as well to allow the forwards to get in and to go again.”
With all three Scots playing the full 80 minutes against the Barbarians, full-back Stuart Hogg appeared to emerge from the comfortable victory having made the biggest impression.
The Glasgow Warriors 20-year-old has a gargantuan task on his hand to get in front of Wales counterpart Leigh Halfpenny in the pecking order but has been tipped to thrive on the fast pitches Down Under.
Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan picked out Hogg for special praise after a promising opening win.
He said: “I thought Paul O’Connell was excellent, Mike Phillips was outstanding, both centres impressed me and then the big men in the back three – and Stuart Hogg at 15 as well.”