Sean Maitland is ready to help Saracens claim the Gallagher Premiership title on Saturday after his prolonged contract saga ended an unsettling period.
Maitland was about to prepare his departure speech for the club’s leavers’ event on April 28 because of the uncertainty over whether he would still be at StoneX Stadium next season.
It was a fraught time for the Scotland wing and his family due to the Premiership’s reduced salary cap making contracts harder to come by, but Saracens have chosen to retain his clinical finishing skills.
“It was lastminute.com. Again! The last two have been quite similar. The market is probably not the best at the moment, especially for a 34-year-old winger,” Maitland said.
“It’s a bit complicated with the salary cap and everything that’s going on in rugby.
“It doesn’t just involve me. I’m just so happy because I have a young family and my kids get to stay in the same school and in the same house for another year.
“Some things helped me – little micro-chats with my wife, small chats about the future and what could happen, keeping her updated about things here and at other clubs.
“I’m very grateful it’s sorted and I can just worry about playing rugby. To move from this club which I love would have been pretty difficult.”
A classic 👌
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 22, 2023
The climax to the season against Sale at Twickenham on Saturday will be the last Saracens appearances for Jackson Wray, Duncan Taylor, Max Malins and Ruben de Haas.
Highlighting the precarious nature of the current landscape of English club rugby, Maitland did not know if he would be joining them out of the door, thereby ending his seven-year spell in north London.
“Before the London Irish game (April 23) I said to (performance director) Phil Morrow: ‘Am I preparing a leaver’s speech for next Friday?’. He looked at me and said: ‘We’ve got a bit of stuff to sort out’,” Maitland said.
“I didn’t hear anything on the Monday or Tuesday, and on Wednesday I was with my son knowing Friday was the leavers’ dinner and I still didn’t know what was happening.
“I got a call to come in and I had my wee son with me thinking: ‘I’m going to be told this is my last time here’.
It's #GallagherPrem Final Week 🤩
See you all at Twickenham 🔜.#YourSaracens💫
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) May 22, 2023
“I sat down with Phil and (director of rugby) Mark McCall and they said: ‘Mate, we want to give you another year’. It was special.
“The game has given me so much over the last 15 or 16 years. I was accepting the fact this was my last year and wanted to go out on a high winning the Premiership, but one more year and the dream keeps going on.”
Maitland has benefited from Saracens adopting a more adventurous approach to attack shaped by last season’s Premiership final loss to Leicester and that experience – the Tigers won through a last-gasp Freddie Burns drop goal – also underlined how winning and losing can be balanced on a knife edge.
“The whole season has been special, the way we have changed how we are playing, scoring tries. To win the final would top a really special year,” Maitland said.
“But as we know from last season it’s a one-off game and anything can happen – decisions, yellow cards, red cards – and Sale are a great team.”