SEAN Maitland is determined to ensure his 2014/15 campaign is the most memorable of his increasingly illustrious career and wants to cap it with a place at the World Cup.
Last summer, the Glasgow and Scotland winger was on tour with the British & Irish Lions as they cut a swathe through Australia en route to a historic Test triumph over the Wallabies.
But Maitland's successful summer Down Under meant he was afforded an extra period of rest and did not make his first appearance for Glasgow until the trip to Italy to face Zebre four games into last season, somewhat curtailing his preparations for the new campaign.
Now, 12 months on, the 25-year-old says he has benefited from the rigours of a full pre-season and a new self-enforced dietary regime, which has allowed him to shed a bit of weight.
"I missed a lot of the pre-season last time around because I'd been away with the Lions in Australia and it was a struggle to play catch-up when I did come back," admitted Maitland. "This is a really important year ahead for me, as it culminates in the Rugby World Cup, in England in 2015, and I want to be in absolute peak condition and make sure I get the best out of myself.
"The other thing I have focused on has been losing a bit of weight to be that bit sharper. I enjoy the food in Scotland but I've been really disciplined about it this summer. I can honestly say that the shape I'm in right now is the best of my career."
Maitland added: "As a team, though, we have added some new guys and they have all been absorbed easily and our preparations have been good. This last week we have focused on shape and when you see that first friendly coming ahead fast you know that the real thing is not far away."
The phoney war of Glasgow's two-game build-up will start in earnest on Saturday at Scotstoun when the English Aviva Premiership side Harlequins come calling. Having missed the corresponding encounter at The Stoop last summer, due to his extended sabbatical, Maitland is desperate for game time.
"We lost to Harlequins down at The Stoop last pre-season and it was a game that went to the wire," he said. "This might be a friendly but it is one we want to win and redress that game when we led with 10 minutes to go and let it slip through our fingers.
"I always enjoy the games with the English sides as there is always that extra edge to them, even in a friendly. Harlequins have some great players like Chris Robshaw, the England captain, and they have been among the best two or three sides in England over the last few seasons. So this is potentially a great marker for us in terms of seeing just where we are with regard to a number of aspects of our play."
However, Maitland has no doubt that the results of Glasgow's encounters with Conor O'Shea's side and London Scottish will have definite significance.
"It is amazing how quickly the summer has passed by and now we are just weeks away from the Guinness PRO12 opener with Leinster," added Maitland, who wants his team-mates to treat the warm-up matches as they would any other.
"We have two friendlies before that with Harlequins first up, then the trip to Richmond to face London Scottish and we want to do as well as we can in these games.
"Sure, it's important that as many players get game time as possible but you also want to build a bit of momentum both in terms of the quality of your performance and the results. That process will start with the Harlequins game next Saturday."