Hamish Watson signs Edinburgh contract extension

Veteran flanker has not given up on dream of pushing his way back up Scotland pecking order

Hamish Watson has signed a one year contract extension with Edinburgh. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Hamish Watson has signed a one year contract extension with Edinburgh. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTLAND and Lions flanker Hamish Watson has signed a one-year contract extension with Edinburgh, with the 32-year-old confirming that he will almost certainly end his career as a one-club man.

Watson, who turns 33 in October, was born in Manchester and grew up in the English Midlands with a spell in the Leicester Tigers academy before moving north to take up a Scotland 7s contract in the summer of 2011, and was quickly inducted into Edinburgh’s ‘Elite Development Programme’ [academy], going on to make his Edinburgh debut that summer.

Next season will be his 14th with the club, and he has made over 150 appearances for Edinburgh, as well as earning 59 caps for Scotland and one Test appearance for the British & Irish Lions in South Africa in 2021. He was also voted Six Nations player of the championship in 2021.


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“I think any player at my stage of their career will look at options,” said Watson, when asked if he had considered a move to experience a different rugby environment as he enters the twilight of his career. “In the end, when you get to my stage of career and you have a family as well, it comes down to a bit more than just a rugby decision.

“This club is really home for me, and also I have to say the coaching staff played a part in it as well, with Sean Everitt [the head coach] signing on for another two years. I get on really well with him and I think what he has done here so far has been really positive. So that played a part, and, like I say, ultimately it comes down to your family as well.”

As a combative player in a position which demands a lot physically, Watson has had his fair share of injury lay-offs, but said that the prospect of being used more sparingly at Edinburgh than in France or England was not a factor in his decision. In fact, as he battles to regain his place in the Scotland team, he is keen to play as much as possible.

“For me personally, and currently where I’m at as well, I’m actually playing more rugby than I’ve ever played for Edinburgh. So I’m looking forward to next season as well. I still want to try and get in the mix with Scotland and play for Scotland – that’s always been my aim in rugby. It’s a massive honour to represent my country. But if that doesn’t come, you actually end up playing more for Edinburgh, so that works for me as well.”

Watson missed out on selection to Gregor Townsend’s initial training squad for the recent Six Nations but was called in ahead of Scotland’s round three match versus England, but having not featured in that game or in the defeat to Italy, he didn’t hang around in the national camp for the final week during the lead-up to playing Ireland.

“It was just a personal conversation that I had with Gregor,” he explained. “So that was more a decision on both fronts, that I wouldn’t be involved in that last final week.

“Basically, we were going away on tour to South Africa [with Edinburgh the week after the end of the Six Nations] and I don’t think I would have been in the squad [to play against Ireland], put it that way. So then I said: ‘Would it be possible to spend some time away?’ And Gregor was nice enough to say yeah, go and spend some time with your family.”

 

 

Watson thinks it unlikely that he fits the age profile for this summer’s tour to the Americas, which is likely to be treated as a developmental expedition, but believes he can still force his way back into the reckoning for the Autumn.

“I’ve been pretty happy with my form this season for Edinburgh,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I always think [I can play better] – even in 2021 when I was player of the Championship  I’m quite hard on myself. I always believe that I can play better and be better.

“But I still think I can play and offer a lot more to the team, but overall form-wise, I think actually I’ve been on all right form this season and played pretty well in some matches. It hasn’t helped with the breaks over that Six Nations period – it always takes bit of time to get used to that, you know, when the Six Nations go on a fallow week and you play Zebre then you wait two weeks, you play Ospreys, then you wait another two or three weeks, then you play the South African teams.

“But here will be no excuse like that now we’re going into eight straight games [assuming they win their knock-out games]. I’m looking forward to that.”

First up in that run is Bayonne in the round of 16 of the Challenge Cup at Hive Stadium on Saturday.

“In the URC, we’ve dropped down to ninth now after two losses in a row, so we know how tight that competition is as well,” said Watson. “I think we’ve got five games left in that, and every game will be basically a play-off game for us now until the end of the season, which is exciting for players as well because that’s what you want to be involved in, when every game actually matters and really means something.”

“Bayonne have got a lot of really good individuals, they’re a big forward pack and it’s going to be a tough game. You know what French teams can be like sometimes in the EPCR group stages. But they’ve obviously fallen down from the Champions Cup, and once they get to knockout rugby they normally take it pretty seriously.

“So, we’re still expecting a really tough challenge against them, but they have struggled away from home so we’ll go into the game even off the back of two losses with a lot of confidence.”

Meanwhile, Everitt added: “Hamish must be in the form of his life for Edinburgh at the moment.

“The amount of effort he puts into a game, and how he puts his body on the line, is certainly an example to all the youngsters at our club. He gets through all the training sessions. I don’t recall him missing one apart from when he had his cheekbone injury.

“If you look at his tackle stats from the weekend, he had 16 with none missed. Look at his aggression in the carry for a guy who is not as big as most loose forwards – he’s done exceptionally well.

“He’s a really good example to have around the club as to what hard work stands for.”

“Being the competitor that he is, he still has ambitions to play for Scotland. He was in the Six Nations squad for a short time, and I’m sure he is putting pressure on the selectors at the moment.”


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About David Barnes 3908 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

5 Comments

  1. Hamish will end his career as an Edinburgh, and Scotland, legend. And I don’t use that word lightly…

    Some have decided to start writing him off this year, but I can’t think of any other player over the past 10+ years that has performed with as much heart and as consistently well as him for both club and country. Lucky to have him.

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  2. Good for Watson, but questionable for the pathway for young Scottish back rows who will miss out on game time and development.

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    • Having Hamish around for another year at least isn’t a bad thing for development. While both Ritchie and Crosbie can play open side they will both get plenty of game time at blindside and even maybe Crosbie at 8. The most like for like is Connor Boyle, who played well earlier in the season. Connor may well be ready to step up to first choice and if Hamish had gone to say Japan then that is probably what Edinburgh should have done. Now we are saying to Connor you’ll get games but to be first choice you’ll have to take the shirt off him. Hopefully good competition for the rest of the season and next. Then when Hamish does retire or leave then Connor steps up and we get young Freddie Douglas more involved – who looks like he could be some player

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      • Been hearing for two decades how much our young players learn from old heads….and look where u20s are with this philosophy. With only 2 teams we need to get young players playing not watching. We are sliding further and further behind nations that have 18yr olds playing full time pro rugby.

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