NEITHER of the teams Hamish Watson plays for are accustomed to losing at Murrayfield, but both have done so recently: Edinburgh to Cardiff in the PRO14, Scotland to Ireland in the Six Nations. The fact he was not playing in either match came as no consolation to the 27-year-old, who is determined to return to winning ways at the national stadium on Saturday against Wales.
Edinburgh’s loss last month was their first at home in 10 months, Scotland’s their first in the Championship since 2017. But Watson, who last week returned to action after six weeks out with a broken hand, refuses to lose time mourning the end of two winning runs.
“It’s always frustrating to lose that home record,” the openside flanker said of Scotland’s loss to Ireland, which was of course followed by defeat in France. “We hadn’t lost a Six Nations game there for two years, so it’s frustrating.
“You’re going to lose a home game eventually. You saw that with Edinburgh against Cardiff as well. It’s frustrating when those records go, but you’ve got to bounce back as quickly as possible. You can’t dwell on it, because we’ve got another huge game this weekend against a team going for a Grand Slam and it’s at our place, so we need to bounce back with a win.
“There’s a bit of pressure – we put the pressure on ourselves. There’s pressure from the fans, maybe a bit from the media, but we’re the ones who put pressure on ourselves to win as well. The reason there’s pressure is that we’ve done so well the last couple of years, so it’s a good pressure to have.
“We’d be a bit concerned if there wasn’t pressure to go and win the game. So we’ve got another great opportunity to win a home game and I know we lost against Ireland, but over the last two years we’ve not lost many at home.”
Watson’s enforced absence from Scotland’s last two games at least allowed him to take a different perspective on what went wrong. “I did a bit of commentary stuff for the Ireland game and it was too many errors, really,” he continued. “I think we conceded 22 turnovers.
“And I thought that game was there for the taking – we played very well in the first half. Just before the break we didn’t score that try and that was a massive momentum swing: if we’d scored there we would have probably gone on to win that game, because Ireland were a bit on the rack there.
“That was disappointing, and from there we just seemed to be chasing the game, made a few too many errors. You make 22 unforced errors in a game you’re going to struggle to win the Test match.
“France was tough. It was a weird game and they scored a few tries at the end, which I thought flattered the scoreline. I don’t think we deserved to win the game, but again, a lot of errors, set piece went a bit away from us at the end there as well, the scrum . . . . Both a bit disappointing, but we can bounce back this week.”
While the general mood has indeed been one of disappointment since the defeat in the Stade de France, there have been some positive aspects of the campaign so far, among them the form of Jamie Ritchie in the No 7 jersey. Watson seems certain to take it back from his Edinburgh team-mate at the weekend, with Ritchie switching to six, but in any case he believes the increased competition for back-row places can only be of benefit to Scotland.
“I’m happy for him, but not surprised,” he said of Ritchie’s form. “He’s been playing really well for Edinburgh and went really well in the autumn as well, so he’s got his opportunity at seven and played really well. It’s good, we’ve got a lot of depth in the back row and you can see that.
“We’ve got a lot of injuries in the back row and that’s one of the positions we’re still going well at. So, I’m really happy for him and it’s good to see the back row still going well.”
While the Wales squad and their supporters should be looking forward to Saturday’s match with their morale high, some potential disruption has arisen this week with news of a mooted merger between Scarlets and Ospreys. However, Watson believes that, whatever the feelings among supporters of the two PRO14 teams, the players themselves will not have their preparations disrupted by the domestic turmoil.
“No, I don’t think that’ll affect them at all to be honest. If you were in an international camp and you hear that Edinburgh and Glasgow are merging, I wouldn’t care too much about it until you’re back into that. They’ve got to concentrate on what they’re concentrating on.
“They might have a joke with one of their Scarlets mates if they’re an Ospreys player, but until it’s actually set in stone I wouldn’t be too worried about that if I was the Welsh boys. They’ve got to focus on the international stuff.”