YOU could call it pain relief. Players always feel disappointment when they are sidelined by injury – bitter disappointment when the injury in question rules them out of a major tournament. But in some cases, as Hamish Watson, for one, can attest, there can also be an element of reassurance when the injury in question is not as bad as first feared.
The Edinburgh openside’s World Cup lasted less than a game, as he damaged a knee in Scotland’s opening pool match against Ireland and had to fly home to begin his rehabilitation, only returning to action in last week’s PRO14 win in Munster. As he looked forward to Friday’s Challenge Cup match at home to Wasps, Watson explained that, although he was frustrated to have his tournament curtailed, he was also relieved not to be sidelined for longer.
“It was a breakdown,” he recalled of the incident in question. “I got taken out from the side, in my opinion anyway. It was one of those things: if he had just taken me from the side and dragged me round then probably nothing would have happened, but unfortunately just as I was being dragged round somebody hit me from the other side, so it went the wrong way.
“If you’ve ever done your knee before you know straight away and I felt it stretch and felt something snap a bit. At that point I was just thinking ‘I hope it’s not my ACL’, which is what most players think. As soon as you do your knee you think the worst. With any injury, you think ‘how long will this keep me out for?’
“When I got into the changing room they said ‘Your ACL feels intact, we think it’s the medial’. Then I went for a scan straight after the game and found out it was just medial-ligament injury and though it was pretty gutting missing my first World Cup, it was a bit of a silver lining that it was only a 10-to-12-week injury and I would be back for Edinburgh pretty soon.
“A lot of players have a lot longer injury than that – I’ve had a longer injury with my shoulder myself. So the disappointment of missing the World Cup was hard to take but as soon as I got over that I could start aiming to getting back to being fit for Edinburgh.
“Having my wife and daughter at home helps as well – if that had been four or five years ago, coming back to an empty flat, it would have been a bit bleak just after leaving the World Cup. It was nice to have them around when I came home.
“I think I got a week or 10 days off at home to get my head round it and chill with the family and then it was straight back in with the Edinburgh S&C coaches, who obviously looked after me really well getting me back a week or a few weeks early.”
Having made his comeback a little ahead of schedule, the 28-year-old can now look forward to being involved in the double-header against Wasps and the two 1872 Cup games against Glasgow which follow. “I came back in nine [weeks],” he continued. “That was maybe a week earlier than we thought, but we were struggling a bit in the back row and I felt good to go. It was a conversation I had with Cockers that I felt good to go.
“I was happy to get 80 under my belt, that was the main thing, and not feel my knee too much, which was good and we got a win, which was nice, away from home. I was probably a bit off it, nowhere near my best. It was a bit of a scrappy game and I was finding it quite hard to get into the game but the main thing was 80 minutes. Came through that injury-wise and now I can build back up and get used to playing again.
“It’s an important part of the season with those back-to-back European games where we know we’re going to have to, after that draw [with Bordeaux], win both to have a chance – of that top-seeded spot, anyway. It’s going to be a tough game against a really good team that are maybe struggling a bit for form but are a great team with great individual players. It will be a really tough game.
“It’s great to come back and have some tough games. They’ll test me and test the team as well. Hopefully I can get back to playing well and put myself forward for the Six Nations.”