INTERVIEW | Hamish Watson

Hamish Watson is tucking into a bowl of fruit salad. It’s a dainty-looking dessert for someone who’s known for his relentless tackling and turnovers but the back-row is clearly doing his best to stay healthy during the NatWest 6 Nations campaign.

“The Six Nations is a very different proposition to the Autumn Tests,” he said.

“You’re playing northern hemisphere teams so the games tend to be a bit more physical.

“But the autumn internationals have prepared us really well. We played two of the top teams in the world – Australia and New Zealand – and it was great preparation for this tournament.”

Watson has been working hard to make the number seven shirt his own, earning his place in the national team and clocking up 18 caps in the process. He has started every game of this year’s NatWest 6 Nations.

Watson grew up near Macclesfield but with Scottish grandparents he always hoped to represent Scotland, even going so far as to hang a saltire on his bedroom wall.

Watson has become such a regular in the Scotland squad that it’s easy to forget he made his debut relatively recently, coming off the bench against Italy in the 2015 Six Nations.

It was just over a year until Watson got another chance at senior international honours, an opportunity he grabbed with both hands by bringing his relentless club form to the national team set-up and subsequently earning the starting seven jersey in all but one of eight tests in an impressive 2016/17 season.

The icing on the cake came in the second summer test when his lung-busting support line saw him cross the whitewash for his second Scotland try against the Wallabies, in the national team’s historic win in Sydney. Watson then went on to win plaudits during the Autumn Tests for a strong showing in all three games.

“It was great to play at BT Murrayfield three weeks in a row – obviously at the Six Nations you don’t get to do that. It was great that we sold out every game as well, I think that was a first for Scotland’s autumn internationals,” he said.

The number seven position is a specialist one and it’s clearly a role that Watson enjoys.

You are that person who needs to bring a lot of work-rate and a lot of energy to the team,” he said. “And I think the more things you can have in your game that can help you, the better.”

He says that as a player, continually adding to your repertoire is essential and he explains that the Scotland coaches focus a lot on the breakdown, using specialist drills to develop skills and improve performance.

“Obviously the standard thing you want for a seven is to be good over ball, a good tackler and really be able to slow the ball down,” he said.

“But for a young player I’d say you’ve got to add as many strings to your bow as possible, try and work on your skills every day like your basic hand catch skills, because there’s a lot of link-up play that a seven will do as you’re out in the back line quite a bit.

You need to work on the the bread and butter stuff – the tackling, the jackling, and work on your carrying as well. If you’re like me, if you’re not the biggest, you need to use your footwork and use your fend and all that sort of stuff.”

Watson says he enjoys coming into the Scotland squad and getting into the mind-set required for playing at international level. He’s a fan of the expansive, attacking style of playing that’s being fostered by Head Coach Gregor Townsend.

“I think playing fast-tempo rugby really suits our squad and I think it definitely suits me as well,” he said. “We did it a bit on the summer tour but I think in the autumn internationals people really saw we were trying to speed the game up and make our line-outs fast.

“You could tell that in those games that we were really pushing the fast-tempo of the game. We want to get the ball out as quickly as possible and start using our back liners because we’ve got a pretty good back line.”

At this stage in the NatWest 6 Nations there is still all to play for.

“We’ve got a lot of hope and expectation for this Six Nations,” he said. “As a team we sat down and spoke about it and in the Six Nations you’ve got to take every game as it comes.”

With expectation comes pressure, but it’s clear this is a squad which has confidence in its abilities.