GREGOR TOWNSEND was concise and to the point when asked if Sean Maitland could return to the Scotland fold during the remainder of this Autumn’s Test schedule. “Yes,” was his one word answer.
The 32-year-old winger was excluded from the squad during the build-up to this weekend’s Six Nations clash against Wales after being one of a a dozen or so players who breached Covid safety protocols whilst in camp with the Barbarians the previous week, causing the cancellation of the invitational side’s match against England.
Townsend said he was very disappointed with the player’s actions but believes that missing the Wales game is sufficient punishment for a ‘foolish mistake’. Scotland have four Nations Cup games left to play this Autumn after Saturday, against Italy away on 14th November, France at home on 22nd November, Fiji at home on 28th November and a play-off on 5th December.
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“Sean was very disappointed in himself, he showed lots of contrition and understands the situation was a serious one,” said Townsend. “Everyone makes mistakes, so not being involved this week is a blow for him and he’ll come back into our squad when he is next available.
“He has been a good player for us over the last few years, he is close to 50 caps, he had an outstanding game in the quarter-final [of the Champions Cup] when the Saracens beat Leinster, and he was good again in the semi-final loss to Racing, so he is still in very good form and we do see him coming back into the squad.
“[I was] very disappointed,” he added. “For rugby, that an international game was called off because a group of players did something they said they wouldn’t do, or signed up not to do.
“These circumstances were foolish, and the consequences of their action means all those things didn’t happened, a group of England players didn’t get to plan an international game, and as supporters we were denied watching a game of rugby.
“Very disappointed, and it’s a lesson for our players based up here and for other people in sport. A thing they think is minor in normal times can have a huge effect during this Covid period.”
It is likely but has not been confirmed that Maitland is one of the 13 Barbarians players who have been charged by the Rugby Football Union on a range of charges related to their Covid breach including “individual breaches of the protocols” and “providing false statements during an investigation”.