‘Italy win would put our Six Nations back on track,’ says Hamish Watson

Azzurri hold no fear for flanker despite losing against them on his international debut in 2015

Hamish Watson says the Scotland team recognise the importance of next weekend's Six Nations clash against Italy. Image: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON
Hamish Watson says the Scotland team recognise the importance of next weekend's Six Nations clash against Italy. Image: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON

HAMISH WATSON made his Scotland debut against Italy just under five years ago, during the 2015 Six Nations championship in which the team ended up with the wooden-spoon having not won a single game.

He came off the bench with about half an hour to play in place of Johnnie Beattie with Scotland 16-15 ahead, and ended up being yellow-carded with 30 seconds left on the clock for collapsing a maul which was motoring hard towards the Scottish line. Referee George Clancy also awarded the penalty try which gave the visitors a 19-22 victory. It was the last time the Azzurri won a match in the championship.

“It’s a lovely stat so thanks for mentioning it,” chuckled Watson, when he was reminded of the occasion last week. “It was actually an alright debut apart from that moment, but people always remember that moment.”

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Fortunately, the tearaway flanker is not the sort of character who will expend valuable energy worrying about incidents in his rear-view mirror. There is always another battle in front to prepare for, and as this year’s Italian encounter looms over the horizon, he points out that a lot has changed in five short years.

“If this was my second cap then I’d probably be thinking about that game but it’s long gone,” he shrugs. “It was a long time ago and we were in a bad place during that Six Nations.”

The inference is that Scotland are not in a bad place in this Six Nations, despite having lost their opening two games and being deprived of the talents of star stand-off Finn Russell, who walked out of camp two weeks before the championship got under way, and now appears to be caught in a Mexican stand-off with head coach Gregor Townsend.

Watson has a point. Scotland were well in the game against both Ireland and England, and those are not matches they have any right to expect to win. The team has played with spirit, and if certain aspects of their performance have not been up to scratch [notably breakdown and composure in the opposition 22 versus Ireland and line-out versus England], then other areas [such as defence and general game shape] have exceeded external expectations.

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“We are all under pressure but even if we had won our opening two games then we’d still be under a massive amount of pressure going to Italy,” says Watson.

“It’s always a game that’s tough and we know it’s a game that they target as well. They started slowly against Wales, but we know how hard it is playing against the Welsh away from home. It’s going to be a massive contest against a side who looked a lot better against France.

“We are all professional rugby players and it’s about how you handle it [pressure]. This is a massive game and one where we can get ourselves back on track. If we can get the win in Italy then our tournament is right back on track.”

Scotland have not lost to Italy in seven meeting since that fateful day in 2015, but in the aftermath of their World Cup flop and the Russell-affair this match is far more problematic and potentially damaging if it doesn’t go the right way than any of those previous encounters.

“We are a close-knit group and we are doing well off the field,” concluded Watson. “It’s a matter of time before we get a few performances.”

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About David Barnes 4004 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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.


  1. “Put our six nations back on track”???

    Another SRU media department-drafted interview fluff-piece.

    What a load of utter nonsense. Our six nations has long since derailed. It was off-track before the world cup, and will remain so until we actually have a governance and coaching structure that doesn’t lurch from the sublime to the ridiculous at every competitive match.

    Let’s just stop with the nonsense and tell it how it is.

    1. We have a group of individuals with varying talents that cannot act as a squad or team.

    2. We have a coach who cannot adjust his tactics to suit variable opponents, and has zero personality that he is willing to share with the fans.

    3. We have a union in turmoil that is being ruled by people who could care less about our game or its reputation.

    People are walking away in their droves…it’s happening at club and international level.

  2. Clearly there are serious issues between Finn and Gregor. How deep do they go and how much influence does the dispute between Finn’s Father and the SRU have on the situation? Also, how deep is the issue felt within the squad. Most of whom probably feel they cannot talk as they are contracted to and paid by the SRU. We have undoubtedly gone backwards under Townsend as did Glasgow Warriors – the Pro12 win was as much down to Lineen as it was Townsend. A win against Italy by a few points is meaningless – we regularly put their teams to the sword. At the very least we need a big win by 20+ points and then a win over France. Having watched Scotland at Murrayfield for decades we have the best group of players for 20 years performing the poorest in a very very poor 20 years, a lamentable indictment of the coach.

    • So true. It is lamentable. This talk about “Scotland were well in the game against both Ireland and England, and those are not matches they have any right to expect to win.”
      With skilled, fit players who know what they are doing, they should expect to win.

  3. Wales away on the final day will be a damage limitation act, so let’s just write that one off now. So therefore the only thing that will salvage this campaign is wins against both Italy and France, 2 wins from 5 not great but then not disasterous either. Only 1 win is regression, a whitewash of defeats and subsequent wooden spoon would be unthinkable given where we were only 2-3 years ago.

  4. Jim, does GT really draw credit for the draw? My understanding of it, was more likely to do with another individual, presently missing from the squad. Given a decent platform and front foot from the forwards he often has made the difference to Scotland. Hastings on the other hand I believe is a work in progress at national level.

  5. When our Chief Exec is paid 3 x more than his Welsh counterpart, we have a “right to expect to win” more than the wooden spoon decider. (Not that anyone’s taking Italy for granted).

    • That much is true, it was a farcical amount, however, that is a reflection on the Board of the SRU. I would love to see an article that dug into the management structure and who are the actual shareholders when it comes to the SRU?

      Dodson is a divisive character, he came with a plan and he is delivering it but he does not seem to get out and mingle with the public and that is the biggest issue that I see. A CEO should be happy to meet with his customers and those working on the shop floor. I am really not sure if he is really being held to account, that money that was lavished on him could have gone to developing a 3rd Scottish Pro14 team, the stadium for Edinburgh or some more wins for Scotland. I would love to see his targets for 2020 in the sake of transparency.

      Clearly Scotlands “Old farts” are far better at staying hidden and lining their tweed pockets.

  6. Now of all the players in that team Hamish Watson has more credit in the bank than most but if he genuinely believes that a win against Italy will put this 6N back on track then the siege mentality pervading the camp is at stratospheric levels. A win of course would be most welcome, however it should not be unexpected. On that point I would also take issue with the statement in the article that “we had no right to expect to win either of the first 2 matches. Why didn’t we have a right to expect to beat England as 1/ We were at home and 2/ They had not beaten us for 3 years. However if the writer is implying that we had no expectation because 1/ FR was not playing and 2/ GT is the coach then I agree with his sentiments.

    • Except your argument kind of disintegrates when you remember that GT was the coach when we beat them 2 years ago and drew last year…

    • Jim, we drew last year despite Townsend, not because of him. The last Scotland game I attended at Murrayfield was the warm-up against Georgia, a game we should have won at a canter. That we struggled and then were steam-rollered by an Irish team in Japan whose sell-by date has expired was just another example of the low standard of coaching we have. We were a distant second best to Japan, who were far better prepared for their home tournament than we were. Perhaps they expected to win that match, but we should have been able to make it much more difficult than we did.

      I think we do have the players to win more often and winning will encourage more participants in all levels of the game. That’s not going to happen the way we’re playing now.

    • Well he could hardly say anything else could he?

      It’s why interviews with players or coaches ahead of games are seldom of any interest.

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