Hamish Watson intends to put brakes on Warriors playmaker
Edinburgh flanker Hamish Watson spent the month of November benefiting from Finn Russell's playmaking panache but come Boxing Day he will be looking to keep the in-form stand-off as quiet as possible.
Russell has been in the form of his life, enhancing his reputation with scintillating displays against Racing 92, and openside Watson accepts that he will have a key role in shutting his Scotland team-mate down.
“Did he play well last weekend? I didn’t watch,” said Watson with a chuckle when Russell’s sparkling form was brought.
“No, he’s been going well, so good on him. He’s been playing well, but I think they always do struggle to play their game a bit against us. So we’ve got to try and do that again. Good luck to him.
“As a No 7, traditionally you’ve got to try and rough up the 10 a bit. It’s changed a bit now - you can’t properly rough them up - but there’s a bit of responsibility on every player not to let Finn do his usual tricks. We’ve got to keep an eye on him: he’s a very good player.”
Watson will join Magnus Bradbury and Cornell du Preez in a back-row which will have a crucial role in shutting of the Glasgow backs’ supply lines and getting go forward for the home team in Monday’s 1872 Cup opener at BT Murrayfield.
Edinburgh have named a fairly settled team for the showdown, with centre Phil Burleigh returning from the one-week suspension he received for a red card in the first game of the Stade Francais double header and stand-off Duncan Weir lining up against his former club. Wing Tom Brown will make his 100th appearance for the clubs, while replacement scrum-half Sean Kennedy could make his 50th off the bench.
Watson, of course, is enjoying a decent run of form of his own and established himself as first-choice at No 7 for club and country but he doesn’t reckon that will put extra pressure on them in a game which is often viewed as a quasi-Scotland trial ahead of the Six Nations.
“No, it’s not extra pressurised,” said the 25-year-old. “In every game there’s a lot of pressure on any player. I’m not extra pressurised but I’m pretty excited to get into it. I’ve played a lot with some of those Glasgow players now, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Watson missed last year’s inter-city games after suffering a medial strain in a European game against London Irish and that setback also put paid to his hopes of being involved in the Six Nations.
He is relishing his return to the fixture and keen to help Edinburgh off to a positive start in their bid to win the 1872 Cup for a third straight season.
“I think we’re all pretty pumped,” said Watson. “Edinburgh-Glasgow has always got that rivalry. You could be best mates with one of the Glasgow boys, but I think when it comes to Edinburgh-Glasgow you both want to beat each other up, for 80 minutes anyway.
“After the game it’ll all be fine, but those 80 minutes are going to be pretty intense.”
Watson concedes that Edinburgh head into the game on the back of a series of puzzling curate’s eggs in terms of performance, following back-to-back PRO12 losses in Wales with two classic ‘games of two halves’ with Stade Francais in Europe.
“I think we’re struggling to put together a good 80-minute defensive performance,” said the flanker. “Last Thursday we didn’t concede any points in that second half, first half we struggled massively. Then the week before we had a red card, and I don’t think we conceded one try with that red card. So there you go. It’s struggling to put 80 minutes together. Our system’s there and we all know what we want to do.”
Watson stressed the importance of the PRO12 points at stake and insisted Edinburgh haven’t given up hope of a top-six place. “I think we can definitely get there,” he said. “You saw Cardiff go on a late run last year. Start putting a run of games together and confidence is a massive thing. If we all start believing, I think we can definitely still make that top six. We’re not even halfway through the season yet.”