Stakes are high for Edinburgh Rugby’s Watson

Hamish Watson hopes to catch the Scotland coaches' eye. Pic: SNS
Hamish Watson hopes to catch the Scotland coaches' eye. Pic: SNS
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Hamish Watson will tonight aim to remind Scotland coaches of his capabilities while helping Edinburgh Rugby try to make up for their previous meeting with Ulster.

Last time Edinburgh faced their Irish opponents on Guinness Pro12 duty they failed to register a point during a 30-0 defeat in Belfast last year.

Alan Solomons’ men made up for another horrendous 2014 result last week when they defeated Ospreys, who had inflicted a 62-13 pummelling upon them back in September, but Watson reckons atonement against Ulster at BT Murrayfield tonight will be much harder to come by.

“Ulster are not missing as many internationals as Ospreys were and they have more depth,” said Watson.

“I was a travelling reserve earlier this season against them, but Ulster are one of the teams I have played against most in my four years at Edinburgh.

“Their back row is very strong and they have a good (ball) carrying back row. They are very physical too.”

Being released back to the Pro12 is a double-edged sword for the likes of flanker Watson.

While it could be that he is now out of the running for a debut cap against Italy next week, it is an opportunity to play his way up the pecking order.

“It’s been a great experience being with the national squad over the last couple of weeks and especially helpful meeting players I didn’t know very well,” he said. “Hopefully I can have a good game tonight when all the Scottish coaches will be watching.

“I didn’t play last week against Ospreys because injuries were a bit hit or miss in the Scotland squad and it was a bit frustrating to be on the fringes.

“But at least I am in the (national) squad at this point and if I don’t get my chance in the Six Nations maybe I’ll get it in the warm up games for the World Cup.”

Eyebrows might be raised at Edinburgh fielding essentially open side flankers in both Watson and Roddy Grant, but the pair combined effectively when a win was achieved in Connacht earlier this year.

Ulster, with World Cup winner Ruan Pienaar of South Africa at scrum half, currently lie fourth in the table and Edinburgh have won just once in the last eight encounters and others released by Scotland such as Tim Visser and Ben Toolis will also be looking to make an impression. Tom Heathcote also gets an outing at stand off at a time when the play-maker position is likely to have be filled against Italy next week due to Finn Russell’s suspension.

Capital coach Alan Solomons made clear that Heathcote owed promotion ahead of Jade Te Rure to recovery from injury and was not a situation mandated by the national team. However, the coach sidestepped questions about whether caveats had been attached to the length of time Scotland squad players would remain on the pitch.

“I can promise you there was absolutely no instruction. Jade has not been here a massive amount of time. Tom had a good 25 minutes (last week) and came through unscathed,” said Solomons

Similarly, Solomons was not to be drawn on whether lending players to Glasgow so that Fraser McKenzie faces Ospreys for the second successive week in different colours undermines the credibility of the league.

“They have rules for the Pro 12 and as long as one complies that is fair enough,” said Solomons. “The people that administer the Pro 12 will have thought carefully. For us coaches it is just a question of complying with those rules.”

A query about whether “trialists” Hugh Blake and Jade Te Rure would be staying on also brought short shrift.

“That stuff will be dealt with in the fullness of time and there will be an announcement,” said Solomons, who was forthcoming in tipping Greig Tonks, retained by Scotland, to gain a second cap against Italy in the stand off problem position.

“Greig must be in the mix having been on the bench last week,” he said.

• OMAR MOUNEIMNE has agreed a short-term contract with Lyon as a consultant just three months after leaving Edinburgh’s defence coach position to return to South Africa for “personal reasons”.