SEAN MAITLAND, Glasgow Warriors' new arrival, yesterday played down the chances of Todd Blackadder, his hero and mentor in New Zealand, making a return to Murrayfield as Scotland coach, but refused to rule out the possibility.
Blackadder, the former Edinburgh head coach who is in charge of Maitland's former team, Canterbury Crusaders, not only played a big part in the New Zealand-born 24-year-old's career, but also helped Sean Lineen persuade Maitland to throw in his lot with Scotland.
Maitland was flying into the UK to join Glasgow just as the Scots were being humiliated by Tonga at Pittodrie on Saturday in what proved to be Andy Robinson's last game in charge. When asked about the chances of him playing for Scotland under Blackadder, Maitland said: "Yes, Toddy would be good. However, he has two years left on his contract in Christchurch. But who knows, anything can happen.
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"Toddy has told me a lot about Scotland. He said so many great things about the country, especially the Glasgow and Edinburgh teams. He talked about Scotland's great culture and great banter, and the fact the rugby guys are a great bunch.
"He reassured me I was doing the right thing and that meant a lot coming from him because he had a lot of experience here as a player and coach."
Maitland, who qualifies to wear the dark blue jersey through his Glasgow-born grandparents, made no bones about the fact he is desperate to make a jump to the Test stage for his adopted nation.
But he insisted his immediate priority is to pin down a starting place with the Warriors. Maitland, who was a member of New Zealand's Under-19 World Cup-winning side in 2007 and the New Zealand Under-20 team that won the IRB Junior World Championship the following year, said:
"I won't lie; when I was growing up I wanted to play for the All Blacks, just like any Kiwi kid. When I realised that wasn't going to happen, I made up my mind to test myself overseas and being eligible for Scotland and proud of that heritage, that became a goal. So when the opportunity arose to come here I had to do it. I know the Scotland boys will be gutted about what has happened over the past few days but I can't think about all that or my goal of playing for them just now.
"My focus is on Glasgow and the challenge of earning a place in a squad that already contains so many top-class back-three performers. There was always healthy competition for places at the Crusaders, you had to fight for your place every week and it will be the same here. But I just want game-time and to play some footy."
Of his Scottish background, Maitland, who is of Samoan and Maori descent on his mother's side, explained: "My paternal grandparents were born and bred in Glasgow before moving out to Waikato in the 1970s. There are heaps of Maitlands still here, many of them in Erskine.
"When I was here four years ago with New Zealand to play in Under-20 World Cup I met them for the first time and spent a bit of time with them. It is good to be back and having so many relatives around will make it easier for me to settle quickly. It really is pretty weird how things have worked out for me, being back in my grandfolks' home area 40-odd years after they left."
Gregor Townsend, the Warriors head coach, said: "It's great to welcome Sean to Scotstoun and have him on board as we enter a crucial stage of the season. We have some big games coming up, starting this Friday at Munster, and this is a great boost for the club.
"We know the quality Sean brings. His scoring record in Super Rugby speaks for itself, but he knows he has to earn his place in the team as we have a lot of quality in the back division here. I'll be looking for him to work hard in training and earn the chance to show the supporters what he's all about."
Maitland built a reputation as a lethal finisher for Crusaders following his debut in Super Rugby in 2008. He notched up 24 tries in the competition, including scoring four in one game in 2011 to equal the record for a single match. He has joined Glasgow on a deal which runs until May 2015.