Sean Maitland excited for ‘pretty special’ prospect of facing Leinster

Sean Maitland (Image: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

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Sean Maitland is one of the Saracens old boys who has been waiting in the long grass for this one.

Running out at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday will be a late birthday present for the just turned 32-year-old, after a bunch of what he describes as "nothing" games since rugby's restart.

Sarries' fate was long since decided by the massive points deduction that followed the salary cap scandal.

And, while an upcoming season in the Championship is something the veteran wing is happy to embrace, the prospect of Saturday's shot at high-flying Leinster is "pretty special".

He said: "In the back of the mind, we've always had this Leinster game. 

"It's the only game that really means anything to us but in saying that, it's been so good for our young lads to get experience.

 "For the older boys like me, we've been building up to this game as the one with real significance."

Maitland's description of the adversity faced by his club as "non-stop" is an indication of the backs to the wall attitude that Mark McCall's side will bring to Dublin.

"It's been absolutely crazy," said the New Zealand-born Scotland international.

Sean Maitland
(Image: Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

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"We’ve stayed in our bubble and obviously it’s been difficult. 

"Everyone's taken it in a different way, but the main thing is we’ve come together at the end of it, people come and go, and that’s the nature of our sport. 

"Obviously we would have loved some of the boys who left early to be playing this week, but our new group has stayed together and we’ve still got a strong 15 and 23."

Maitland knows that the title holders are facing the PRO14's form team – and, of last Saturday – champions for the third successive time and he speaks of matching the Blues in the physical stakes, of "stopping their momentum and kicking game".

Thus so much of their task will be about stopping Johnny Sexton.

Owen Farrell playing in the Sexton role in training this week – the England no 10 is suspended for the game – has been of benefit.

"Johnny loves to manipulate the backfield so for me on the wing it's about trying to read his body language and the pictures he presents, and just try to shut that down," admitted Maitland.

"It's been good to have Owen there running the cutter, but obviously we would rather he was playing on Saturday."

Owen Farrell
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Overall, Maitland stresses, Sarries' motivation is "massive" coming into the knock-out clash of last year's finalists. 

The Premiership club have conquered Europe three times since the 2015-16 season.

"It doesn't get any better than playing Leinster at the Aviva," Maitland said.

"I know there's not going to be any fans, which is a shame. We've played them two or three years in the competition, a quarter-final over there, then last year's final, now the quarter-final again.

"I'm sure they have a lot of motivation after last year and it's the only game that really means anything. We've got nothing to lose and it's going to be special.

"You gotta be confident, you can't be going to the Aviva and not giving it your all.

"We've got a couple of legends at the club and this is going to be their last season, so we've got a lot of things to play for. 

"We want to win this competition, beat Leinster, but also do it for these lads who have given so much to the club".

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