Player of the Championship nominee: Hamish Watson

Hamish Watson POTC
By the end of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, Hamish Watson’s reputation had grown almost as much as his distinctive mullet.

By the end of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, Hamish Watson’s reputation had grown almost as much as his distinctive mullet.

Regardless of opposition, regardless of situation, Watson just kept coming, whether it was bowling over would-be tacklers or chopping down forwards almost twice his size.

Scotland’s dynamic back-rower maintains a level of consistency matched by few others and over the course of their campaign he was simply sensational.

In a Championship book-ended by victories at Twickenham – a first since 1983, and Paris – a first since 1999, Watson did it all.

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His opening salvo might have been the standout performance, leading the way in a Scottish pack that dominated England physically and allowed the likes of Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg to play on the front foot all game.

Hogg was deservedly named Guinness Six Nations Player of the Match, but make no mistake, Watson was as important as anyone in an 11-6 victory. It was only fitting that it was he who made the final turnover that sealed the historic success.

A week later he was equally influential, topping the tackle charts for Scotland and making two key turnovers in a narrow 25-24 defeat to Wales.

He made 13 tackles in that game, and 55 over the course of the Championship, missing just one in all. That was the most tackles made by any Scotland player, and of the few men who made more tackles than Watson, all missed more than his solitary tackle.

Against Ireland in Round 4, Scotland were not at their best for large periods, but they showed the sort of tenacity which is Watson’s hallmark to hang in the game.

And after Huw Jones had brought them back to within a score, it was Watson who somehow squirmed his way over from close range despite the attentions of multiple Irish tacklers.

Unfortunately for Watson, that remarkable effort was to prove in vain, with Johnny Sexton kicking a late penalty to break Scottish hearts.

They bounced back though, with a thumping win over Italy. Watson was at the heart of it, earning Guinness Six Nations Player of the Match honours for an all-action display.

Ironically it was in this game that he missed his sole tackle, but with ball in hand Watson proved unstoppable, racking up 83 metres while also setting up a try in the 52-10 win.

That just left a trip to Paris, to take on a French team gunning for the title. Watson and Scotland were having none of it, and you sensed that he relished the damp conditions.

From the off he barrelled back French defenders, proving to be Scotland’s go-to carrier against Les Bleus.

He was relentless all game and eventually the pressure told on the home side, with Duhan van der Merwe scoring a second try after the clock had gone red to seal a famous victory.

For Watson, it completed a remarkable campaign, with four turnovers to add to his 55 tackles and 67 carries, a total only bettered by CJ Stander.

Even more remarkable for an openside flanker, Watson did not concede a single penalty in the Championship, a feat matched only by Iain Henderson of players with at least four turnovers.

The numbers tell their story, but the eye test is just as clear with Watson. His distinctive hairstyle and startling ability to punch above his weight mark him out in every game.

He has been around for long enough that defenders know what to expect when he runs with purpose, but it still does not mean they can stop him.

With that in mind, it was little surprise that he earned a nod as one of the nominees for the Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship 2021.