SEAN MAITLAND has backed his Saracens team-mate Duncan Taylor to be a big hit in Japan, after battling back from a horrendous catalogue of injuries which has severely limited his game time during the last two seasons.
“I can’t imagine what he [Duncan] has had to go through over the last couple of years, but, being around him most of that time, he’s such a positive person, he never seems to get too down and it’s just great for him to be back,” said the New Zealand-born winger. “He’s looking really good, looking sharp, and getting him back is excellent because we all know how talented he is. Hopefully he can stay fit and get some game time in the warm-up matches.”
In recent seasons, the Maitland, Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour back three has been almost unbreakable for Scotland, but with up-and-comers like Darcy Graham and Blair Kinghorn now in the mix things have got interesting. Maitland is a big fan of 22-year-old winger Graham.
“He is obviously very talented, he rises above his playing weight,” Maitland said of the diminutive Borderer. “I have had a few weeks with him since the end of the Six Nations and he is a guy who keeps his head down and works hard, that is what I love about him.
“He is a very talented, explosive player – one of those wingers who gets off his wing and looks for work. He gets in around nine and 10, it is good for the future of Scottish rugby.
“He has a hell of a step. The last couple of days if you have been marking him in training, you have watch his step.
“Darcy is so talented, so fast. When you are that fast, especially laterally, it brings that natural power, it does not matter how much you weigh, 80kg or 100kg, it is physics and he is powerful on account of his speed.”
Meanwhile, Maitland has revealed that squad members have been surpassing their personal fitness goals left, right and centre in recent days as the build-up to the World Cup intensifies.
“We all know that Gregor [Towsend] wants to play a very fast, high-tempo game and we had fitness testing at the start of this week and everyone smashed their own times and got personal bests, so at the moment everyone’s in really great shape physically,” said the speedster, who has 40 caps and 11 tries at the top level to his name.
“In terms of the build-up to the last World Cup in 2015, the difference is now there’s a lot of high-speed running. The boys are looking really sharp.
“My first week in camp was in Portugal [week three of the summer programme] so I got straight into it and it was a bit of a tough week, so I realised I had to keep training on my two weeks off. I was just back in London and doing a bit of work with the Sarries boys and that helped me coming into this block of training.
“It was obviously a great end to the season for me with Saracens and it’s better obviously to win a couple of trophies [the English Premiership and the European Champions Cup] than lose out in finals.
“Then the wee break was good, I got back home to New Zealand, took the family back, my two girls, and it was good to get three weeks there. And then to come back and rejoin the Scotland boys has been really good.
“Preparing for internationals or a World Cup is different than working with Saracens because the Premiership is a long grind. We have a lot more days off and a lot more time to recover, I guess you don’t really need to be battering each other, but more in terms of what we’re doing now it’s important to get that base [level of fitness].
“Some of the guys have obviously been training a lot longer than myself [with Scotland], I’m two weeks in so I’ve got a bit of catching up to do but that will come over the next three or four weeks.
“A lot of people are saying ‘you looking forward to Japan?’ and I’m saying ‘I’ve got to get on the plane first!’ World Cups and all that, it goes for everyone in the back three – maybe not Hoggy but all the rest – that we have to make sure of our spots. It pushes you.
“For me, I am just concentrating on one week at a time. Four warm-up games is a lot and I am not sure what games I will be playing.”