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In focus: Hamish Watson punching above his weight

In focus: Hamish Watson punching above his weight
  • Hamish Watson was man of the match against France last weekend
  • He started one match and came off the bench in another in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations
  • Watson starts in the back row against Georgia

Gregor Townsend demanded a huge improvement from his Scotland team in their second meeting with France and they got it as they turned a heavy defeat into a hard-fought victory at BT Murrayfield.

That involved a number of personnel changes but the one that truly stood out was Hamish Watson in the back row, earning man-of-the-match honours in the 17-14 success.

Townsend has a plethora of options at his disposal in the back row, but Watson has gone some way to separating himself from the pack with his displays over the last 18 months.

Injury may have kept him out of the opening three rounds of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations but he made up for lost time in the last two encounters against Wales and England.

As AWS stats demonstrate, Watson was a force of nature in those two matches.

In the first, he came off the bench and made an immediate impression, racking up 50 metres with ball in hand, making one line break and a further two tackle breaks.

All that came in just 22 minutes of action but served as a reminder that Watson punches well above his weight when carrying the ball.

He continued in similar vein the following week in the spectacular 38-38 draw with England, making 13 carries, the second most of any Scotland player.

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Again he proved very effective with the ball, making 61 metres and serving as one of Scotland’s main attacking weapons.

DEFENSIVE PROWESS

However, what has marked Watson out as one of the most effective back-rowers in Europe is his all-round game.

In last week’s performance against France, he bounced out of one tackle on the way to setting up Chris Harris’ match-winning try, but it was when Scotland did not have the ball that he really made his presence felt.

A week after Les Bleus had made ground and generated quick ball at will, they were stopped in their tracks by a ferocious Scottish forward effort.

Watson was at the heart of it, slowing down French ball, winning turnovers and generally restricting the visitors to counter-attacks.

That was a continuation of his efforts in the Guinness Six Nations when he racked up 34 ruck arrivals in the draw against England, as well as 13 in the cameo against Wales.

He also contributed 23 tackles in the Twickenham draw underlining his value as one of the most complete flankers around.

Watson will start in an intriguing back row against Georgia alongside club colleague John Barclay and young Glasgow Warriors No.8 Matt Fagerson.

It remains to be seen how Scotland will line up for their World Cup opener against Ireland in three weeks’ time, but in Watson, Townsend has a man for every situation to call upon.