His accent may be more Coronation Street than River City but Hamish Watson can point to more than just his Scottish-as-shortbread name and Glaswegian grandparentage to prove his Caledonian credentials.
Despite being born in Manchester, schooled in the Midlands and starting his rugby life with the Leicester Tigers academy, Watson has never been in any doubt over his nationality and this week recalled childhood trips to Murrayfield, waiting by the players’ entrance to bag pieces of kit as souvenirs.
Watson will make his first start in the dark blue jersey against Australia this afternoon, winning a third cap in the process and the in-form Edinburgh openside flanker said it will be the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. “I have been playing for Scottish exiles since under-15 and my dad Les always brought me up to the Murrayfield games,” said the 25-year-old. “From boarding school, I used to get in the car and we’d drive to Scotland. It has always been my country so it’s great to be getting my first start.
“I can’t really remember what my first game was but I remember waiting outside to get Dan Parks’ socks.
“When you’re a kid you get caught up in the whole occasion. The most exciting thing as a kid was meeting all the players afterwards. I have some great memories.
“I think I do still have the socks somewhere. That probably sounds quite creepy because I’ve played against him a few times now. You know how your mum keeps all your old kit . . . so I think they must be in a box somewhere.”
Watson will be hoping that his first start results in a happier outcome than his first cap, which came as a replacement in the 2015 home Six Nations loss to Italy, when the flanker was yellow-carded for collapsing a maul that led to the visitors match-clinching late penalty try.
He earned a second cap in the World Cup warm-up against the same opposition in Turin before dropping out of the national squad picture. Scotland coach Vern Cotter remained in contact though, and assured Watson he wasn’t far away if he worked on certain aspects of his game. A string of highly impressive performances for Edinburgh this season have been rewarded with a recall and selection ahead of his clubmate John Hardie today.
Watson joined Edinburgh on an academy contract back in 2011 but, and despite BT Murrayfield being very much his day-job office, he said the stadium remains a magical place for him. “Some people complain about playing at Murrayfield because obviously the crowds aren’t there [for the Edinburgh games],” he said. “But for a young kid coming up on an academy contract, it is a massive thing to change in the changing rooms.
“You walk past the main dressing room every day and it’s amazing for an academy player to be involved in that.
“I think my first game for Edinburgh was against Cardiff. When you first run out at Murrayfield it is a massive occasion. But you still don’t think you’re going to go on and get a cap for Scotland. You dream about it and think about it, but you don’t get too far ahead of yourself. So it’s great that I’ve got here now.
“It is going to be a big, big day for me and I’ve just got to try not to get too caught up in the occasion. I just want to try and play the game I’ve been playing for Edinburgh.”
Watson revealed that he found out he was in the team on Tuesday.
“In the first week’s training I had no real indication that I’d be starting because everyone was swapping in and out,” he said.
“On the Monday of this week it was stepped up, I was involved in a few more meetings and a few more chats.
“But even then you still don’t think you’re starting at the weekend.
“I kept working hard and I was focused on doing what they were telling me to do.
“Vern then pulled me aside on the Tuesday morning and told me.
“It was a really proud moment for me.
“I’m really delighted and I cant wait to get involved. It’s my first start, obviously, and it will be a great test for me against opposition like Australia. I cant wait.”