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Maitland: Glasgow must prove worth

Glasgow wing Sean Maitland admits it is time the Warriors started justifying their automatic entry into the Heineken Cup.

The RaboDirect PRO12 leaders have won all five of their league games so far but will face their toughest test yet on Sunday when they travel to France to take on reigning European champions Toulon as the new Heineken Cup campaign gets under way.

The fixture has been brought into sharp focus by the attempts of top English and French clubs to break away from the current set-up to form their own competition.

The rebels are unhappy with a number of issues, including the automatic slots handed to the Scottish clubs and the fact they are able to rest players for PRO12 fixtures - where there is no relegation - ahead of important Heineken Cup games.

Yet Glasgow's record in the competition is abysmal. They won just one of their six pool games last year and have not escaped the group stages since 1997-98, when they qualified for the now-defunct quarter-final play-offs.

In total, they have won just 26 games from 85 played in the competition stretching back 17 years. Now Maitland says that must improve.

The New Zealand-born Scotland back said: "With the row that has been going on about the Heineken Cup, I suppose there is a pressure on us to justify our place in the competition, to show we deserve our place.

"The last few years, we have established ourselves in the PRO12 but we haven't done too much in the Heineken Cup.

"If you look at the likes of Leinster and Munster, to become a great team, you have to make that next step into the top level of European rugby.

"Edinburgh have done that but not Glasgow, so that is something we are definitely looking to do. But we have got a pretty good pool and think we can get to that next step."

However, the task of notching up win number 27 could hardly be any tougher for Glasgow.

Toulon - skippered by 2003 England World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson - are unbeaten in their last 10 games at the Stade Mayol, a run which stretches back to January 6.

But there is hope for the Scots that a victory on the Mediterranean coast may not be impossible after Oyonnax and Castres both toppled Bernard Laporte's side in the last month away from home.

"The statistics don't lie," said British and Irish Lion Maitland.

"Toulon are European champions for a reason. They haven't lost at home for a while either and we know we are going into the lions' den, a cauldron.

"But there is a lot of self-belief in our team too. We have won five from five in the PRO12 and those results don't lie either.

"We know we have the firepower to go down to Toulon and compete well. They haven't had their best performances in their last few games. They have got big names on paper but we definitely think we have got the team to beat them too."


From Belfast Telegraph