From Tokoroa to Twickenham
Maitland to make Scottish debutANGELA CUMING
Former Hamilton Boys High School student Sean Maitland will complete a stunning, if somewhat unconventional, journey from Tokoroa to Twickenham this weekend when he debuts for Scotland.
The Waikato-bred flyer has been picked to start on the right wing against bitter rivals England, and will be hoping to gain at least some revenge for New Zealanders following the All Blacks' heavy loss to the English last year.
Maitland, who grew up supporting the Mooloos, was delisted by the Crusaders last year and took up the opportunity to shift to Scotland, where he qualifies to play Test rugby through his grandparents.
The winger, 24, won the under-20 World Cup as an All Black and played for New Zealand Maori.
Maitland's proud grandmother Margaret 'Nan' Cowley told the Waikato Times the whole whanau was ''very proud and very excited'' at the news.
''I am the proudest nan in New Zealand right now,'' she said.
''When one door closes another opens and as a nana I am happy that Sean has made his choice. ''Sean is getting to know his family in Scotland, his heritage, and this (the selection) is just a bonus.
''We wish him the best of luck.''
Maitland is the cousin another Tokoroa rugby export Quade Cooper, who now plays for the Wallabies.
''I guess good rugby genes run in the family or something,'' Mrs Cowley said.
The extended family would be getting up early and switching on the television to watch Maitland's big game, she said.
''Oh yes, we will all be getting together. We wouldn't miss this for the world. It's another wonderful step in his journey and if he is happy then we are happy.''
Scotland's interim coach Scott Johnson says Maitland was ''very proud'' to be pulling on the Scotland jersey for the first time.
"His family will be rapt because they raised him in New Zealand always reminding him of his Scottish heritage, getting up in the early hours of the morning to watch both the Five and Six Nations games on the TV.
"He's shown he can play footy with the best of them and the impact he's made since arriving at Glasgow in the autumn has underlined what we'd seen of him playing for the Crusaders in Super Rugby."
Maitland's amazing story might not end with Scotland, however.
He is also qualified to play for the British and Irish Lions when they take on the Wallabies in Australia later this year.
The Lions, of course, are coached by another Waikato product, Warren Gatland, while the Wallabies are led by the man who gave Maitland his debut at the Crusaders, Robbie Deans.
If Maitland's Scottish form is good enough, he might find himself winning a place in the Lions squad and opposing the very man that gave him his big break in 2008.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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