Flanker Hamish Watson believes his chances of featuring in another Six Nations is a “long shot” – but hasn’t given up hope of forcing his way into the thoughts of national coach Vern Cotter.
The openside is expected to return for Edinburgh in Friday’s home European Challenge Cup clash against Agen after a month-long lay-off with a knee injury.
Watson was capped against Italy in last year’s tournament and against the same opponents in the summer, but failed to make the World Cup squad and, after a stop-start season so far, accepts that the Six Nations may have come to soon.
“Ideally I would have liked to have played last week, and originally I was going to be, but it was put back another week,” explained the Manchester-born 24-year-old. “Yeah, it [Six Nations] is a bit of a long-shot but if I play well this weekend who knows?”
Cotter will name his extended Six Nations squad next week and Watson added: “I am not getting my hopes up. I have played ten games and my form has been quite good, but have been injured for the last four weeks.
“Hards [John Hardie] started for Scotland in the World Cup, so I imagine he will be the starting seven for Scotland in the Six Nations.
“He has played well since he came to Edinburgh and did well at the World Cup.
“He is one of the certain ones to go, but the others I am not sure. The other back row spots are pretty open. Strokes [Alasdair Strokosch] retired and won’t be going. But it is a bit of a long shot for me.
“It’s been frustrating. I was on the bench a bit and then got injured, so it has been a bit stop-start for me.
“The Six Nations is obviously a long shot, but let’s forget about that for now. If I start this weekend and play well for Edinburgh, then hopefully play next week as well, try and start week in, week out for Edinburgh, and then let’s just go from there.”
After a fruitful period in the Guinness Pro12 which has seen Edinburgh move up to third place, it is back to European action this weekend and the visit of Pool 5 bottom side Agen.
Alan Solomons’ men are involved in a three-way battle, tied on 12 points with London Irish behind Grenoble on 14, for the one or possibly two qualifying slots and putting away a struggling Agen side, ideally with a bonus point, is a must ahead of the trip to current pool leaders the following weekend.
Watson picked up his latest injury in the 38-6 humbling by London Irish on matchday three and is keen to get back to winning ways in Europe against a side who have mustered only two points in their first four pool games.
“You can never tell how seriously the French clubs take the competition,” he said.
“Grenoble are doing okay, but Agen are bottom of the [Top 14] table and not going to quality in the Challenge Cup, so we don’t know what sort of team they will put out, but we have to prepare ourselves for whatever.
“We could do with a bonus point, but you’ve got to get the win first. If we go out there and try to chuck the ball around and go for a bonus-point, it won’t come. You’ve got to still build your innings, as the coach says, and start well then look for the tries after that.
“Even if they put out a second string, they’ll still be wanting to put in a good shift for their slot back home, so it will still be tough.
“I’d imagine in the first 20 minutes we’ll have to build an innings, then hopefully get a good lead and then they may fall off a bit.”
Edinburgh’s back three of skipper Mike Coman, Hardie and ever-present No 8 Cornell have been worked hard over the past few weeks and Solomons is expected to use the European games as an opportunity to rest them, which gives Watson a chance he is eager to grasp.
“I’m not sure what the team’s going to be yet, but I’d imagine they’ll be rested – they probably deserve it,” he said. “If they’re rested, it gives boys like myself a chance.”
Watson also took the chance to wish his former fellow flanker Roddy Grant all the best in his new role as London Scottish forwards coach after he was forced to retire before Christmas with a knee injury.
Grant’s new role is part of the SRU’s link-up with the Exiles club which was announced on Monday and Watson said: “All the players are really sad about Roddy’s retirement, but we wish him all the best.
“He’s been really helpful to me. I’ve known Roddy for five years and I like to think he’s helped my game progress. He’s an Edinburgh club man and was unfortunate not to get that cap.
“He’s got the forwards coach job down there so that’s a really good move for him.
“Hopefully after that he’ll come back up here to Edinburgh. I think he’ll do well down there.”