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Scotland's Sean Maitland ready for "unbelievable" atmosphere against England

Published 03/02/2016

Scotland wing Sean Maitland is looking forward to finally facing England again, three years after his Test debut
Scotland wing Sean Maitland is looking forward to finally facing England again, three years after his Test debut

Sean Maitland may not have been born in Scotland but he insists he was brought up to "hate" the English just as passionately as his Dark Blues team-mates.

The New Zealand-born wing will this weekend hope to face the Auld Enemy for only the second time since switching allegiances to the homeland of his Glaswegian grandparents in 2013.

The 27-year-old made his international debut three years ago against the Red Rose at Twickenham but it was a bitter-sweet experience.

It took the London Irish back just nine minutes to register his first try but from there England took over, eventually winning 38-18.

Injuries have denied him the opportunity to face the English in the two meetings since but he should finally get a second chance when the nations meet on the opening day of this year's RBS 6 Nations on Saturday.

The match will stir up emotions in the Scottish camp, especially as they look to make amends for the 20-0 drubbing they suffered back in 2014.

But while Maitland insists a victory would mean just as much to him as his native colleagues, he will not allow the occasion to spoil his focus.

"My grandparents made it pretty clear that I had to hate the English," he joked. "Not many people in New Zealand like the English as well.

"It is a massive Test match, it has been sold out for months and the atmosphere is going to be unbelievable. But at the end of the day, it is just a rugby game.

"I have been playing rugby since the age of five and my mind-set is always, 'It is just another rugby game'.

"I made my debut against England in 2013 and haven't played them since because of injury, so if I get the opportunity to play, that will be awesome. It was mixed emotions that day, making my debut and scoring a try, but we got put away by a good England team."

Maitland showed more restraint that he has previously as he looked back on that match. Ahead of last year's World Cup quarter-final crunch with Australia - his first visit to Twickenham since his Test introduction - he admitted: "We got pumped."

But few are expecting a repeat of that defeat - or indeed last season's humiliating whitewash - this time after the encouraging display by Vern Cotter's men at England 2015.

The Scots only trudged out of the tournament after the Wallabies claimed a controversial 35-34 win with the help of referee Craig Joubert's disputed late penalty award.

However, Maitland has shaken off the pain of that last-gasp defeat.

He said: "It was tough, and living in London I have to drive past Twickenham every morning and it reminds me of that day. But we have to take the positives out of it. We were one refereeing decision away from the semi-final, so we have to try to build on that.

"It is the same group and in the last two days you can see there is way more confidence and a desire to get better and improve.

"We let ourselves down in the Six Nations last year, coming last, so there are definitely a lot of points to prove this year.

"There are no excuses now. I know there are people outside the environment who expect things from this Scotland team, especially after the World Cup. We have to take our opportunities and grind out games if necessary, which we did at the World Cup."

Scotland have not tasted victory over their nearest neighbours since 2008 but will hope to wipe out that stat when they run out in Edinburgh this weekend.

Maitland - who has shacked off a shoulder injury to declare himself fit for action - said: "When you are playing against a team that you have always beaten for the last six or seven years, then you are going to have that self-belief, so England will have it.

"But for us maybe in the past the emotion has probably been too much. We haven't just focused on our skill-set and how we wanted to play. We had a chip on our shoulder.

"Now we are just focusing on us, we are not worrying about results and what happened in the past. We are just working on how we are going to beat England."

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