Hamish Watson: Three key stats

Hamish Watson has been in outstanding form for Scotland since making the number 7 shirt his own from November 2016 onwards. As his Six Nations’ Player of the Year Award from earlier this season shows, the openside flanker has continued to improve as he has matured and is a massive contributor on both sides of the ball.

It’s his preternatural ability to maintain a huge involvement rate without making mistakes that really sets him apart. Here are three key stats which could (should?) propel him into the Lions’ lineup for a series against South Africa that may well be decided on the finest of margins.

Missed tackles

It has been more than two years since Hamish Watson last missed a tackle for Scotland – a run of 242 successful hits in a row.

That streak covers 17 matches (all bar 2 of which have been against Tier 1 nations) and more than 1,200 minutes (20 hours) of rugby.

  • England (A) – 16 tackles
  • France (H) – 21
  • Georgia (A) – 14
  • Ireland (N) – 14
  • Ireland (A) – 16
  • England (H) – 10
  • Italy (A) – 15
  • France (H) – 21
  • Georgia (H) – 13
  • Wales (A) – 11
  • Italy (A) – 16
  • France (H) – 15
  • England (A) – 11
  • Wales (H) – 18
  • Ireland (H) – 15
  • Italy (H) – 3
  • France (A) – 13

So far on tour with the Lions, Hamish has been successful with all 39 tackles he has attempted (the most completed of any Lions’ player) and is one of just four forwards to maintain a 100% tackle completion rate to this point.


It has been more than 700 minutes since Watson last conceded a penalty in a Six Nations’ match.

That hasn’t come about due to lack of involvement either. As can be seen from his tackle count he is a big part of Scotland’s defensive work (second only to Jonny Gray in tackles per 80 minutes).

Hamish is also the dark blues’ primary turnover threat at the breakdown where his immaculate technique paints the pictures refs are looking for and he is almost impossible to shift once clamped on.

During his 169 match career with Edinburgh, Scotland and the Lions, Watson has received just three yellow cards and only one of them has come about due to his work at rucks.

Turnovers conceded

Over the last two years, Hamish Watson has carried or passed/offloaded the ball 231 times for Scotland and only conceded 8 turnovers.

That’s a turnover for every 28.9 carries / passes / offloads or a turnover every 148 minutes – not far off just one per two full games played.

This demonstrates that a low error count isn’t just a feature of Hamish’s defensive work. Despite handling the ball more than almost any other Scottish forward he very rarely gives it away.

A lot of the attention on Hamish Watson focuses on his more eye-catching interventions – the turnovers won, the defenders bounced off, even the sheer volume of work he gets through. What seldom gets mentioned is just how rare it is for the powerhouse flanker to make an error.

Against a South African side that can punish sides heavily for missed tackles, penalties conceded or turnovers given up, Watson’s ability to just get things right time after time could be invaluable.


When he's not watching Glasgow, Scotland (and even Edinburgh) Kevin can usually be found with his head in a spreadsheet working out the most obscure Scottish rugby related stat he can put out on Twitter.
Follow Kevin on twitter @topofthemoonGW

37 comments on “Hamish Watson: Three key stats

  1. FF on

    Great article – I’ve absolutely no doubt that Watson should be starting the first test but the Tom Curry hype train is at full speed and the English media are typically shameless in campaigning for their players. Interesting that quite a few pundits have found a way to squeeze Curry and Watson in, perhaps showing quite how good Watson’s form has been.

    • Saint4805 on

      What many of these pundits fail to point out is that Curry only started to look good after PSDT left the field to have his HIA. I’m a big fan of Curry but would like to see how he would have faired if PSDT had played the second half.

      • Glarugby on

        Agree about the Curry hype train. He “shone” after a Covid ridden South Africa team tired (and made a number of changes). Bottom line he has been (well) beaten last two times he has played South Africa (remember the lions conceded 17 points with him in and lost). Watson should start as he has been excellent, but fear Gatland will pick curry.

      • Fraser on

        Yes, it’s amazing how many people banging on about the SA A game being the one selection is based on forget that the lions lost, and quite a few players only looked good towards the end when the genuine A players came on and the rest were exhausted.

        One thing looking good for the lions is their fitness for 80 minutes seems a step above everyone else so far, although the full SA team might be a different story.

  2. JohnMc on

    Hamish Watson is right up there with John Barclay (at his peak), Finlay Calder and David Leslie as one of the best 7s we’ve had in the last 35 years or so. I hope he makes the 15/23 next Saturday, but if he doesn’t he’s still up there as one of our very best open sides. Fantastic player.

  3. Tim Sandford on

    The only reason not to start Watson is to keep him as a massive impact player later in the match. Even then it’s a weak excuse.

  4. James on

    Those are some crazy stats for Watson.

    You always feel like Watson has had a good game but interesting to see the numbers as well. Thanks for doing the research Kevin 👍🏻

  5. Gus on

    Hamish Watson is the best 7 we have for Lions and Scotland at present. No one can beat his stats at any breakdown.
    tackling is magic and can turn defence into attack at the tackle point or by winning penalties…
    top 10 player in the world right now and deserves a test start.

  6. Joe King on

    His stats back up what we see and feel, so why do the pundits prefer Curry. Are his stats better, it cannot be that he plays for Scotland ?

    • Alanyst on

      English-dominated press, English-dominated audience, English-dominated sponsorship …business logic says pick Englishmen when you can justify it.

    • Fraser on

      Curry is more visible on the pitch, tends to make a couple of big breaks/turnovers which the commentators get over excited about.
      Watson does the less obvious stuff much better, but you have to be watching closely.
      So you would hope he would look like the best choice when they do proper analysis.

      • Rob on

        Curry is also English so his ability is magnified. Reverse their nationalities then the roles would also reverse

  7. 1.8T on

    I just saw Matt Dawson’s pick on BBC, read a paragraph laughed and stopped. “Stuart Hogg hasn’t shown himself to be any better than Liam Williams”. This is what has annoyed me about Scottish Lions for years, this view that the Scottish player needs to be head and shoulders better than the alternative to usurp them. Why doesn’t that line read “Liam Williams hasn’t shown himself to be better than Stuart Hogg”? Objectively in my opinion both statements would be true, there hasn’t been much between them, Williams is playing well and Hoggy while playing well isn’t exactly in the form of his life. It’s just the way it’s always worded, and as for Tom Korma, don’t make me laugh, his time will come but that 7 shirt is mishes all day every day.

    • Alanyst on

      Williams I suppose is viewed as incumbent – having the test shirt from last time…never mind the four years and the fact that Hogg was injured at the time.

    • Merlot on

      Every single one of my English, Welsh or Irish mates picked Williams over Hogg. When I asked why they said “high ball”. So despite him not having missed one high ball on tour (that I can remember) and Williams having missed at least one, Hoggy is still perceived as been weaker under the high ball. Perceived weakness irrespective of evidence.
      Unconscious bias – understandable when you have pundits like Dawson constantly saying Hoggy is poor under the high ball, cannot tackle etc etc. It’s lazy journalism and even lazier analysis. Hopefully Gatland won’t just listen to the media (and we know he doesn’t).

      • Ardent on

        No Hoggy did drop one on Saturday-none in his previous game.LW missed at least one.Hogg’s tackle in first match! LW doesn’t bring much in attack these days and has pretty limited kicking game.
        After reading Dawson’s article though have decided not to read anything till after selection announced-except on here!

    • Ragman on

      You would have loved Dawson’s conclusion that Murray should be at 9, because Price is playing better than him. Very logical.

      • James on

        Loved that one! Particularly as it totally contradicted his thinking earlier in the article that you pick the form players 🤡

    • Toonie's Advisor on

      Talks about how Hogg hasn’t faced the right level of competition. Liam Williams survived for a few minutes before an HIA ruled him out, so how can he be considered any better?

  8. Busy Little Bee on

    Curry had a good second half the other day but I’m struggling to remember the last time he looked really good..up to his hype, certainly not during the 6N. The Curry love-in is really weird. If there is just the token Scot or 2 on the bench this weekend I will be cheering on the Boks big-time. Not surprisingly the incredibly dull Warburton picked zero Scots in his team, he’s another establishment man.

    • Saint4805 on

      Curry has had one good half of rugby the whole tour and that is because Du Toit (who was bossing him) went off for a HIA and didn’t return paving the way for Curry to look good in the second half as the Boks ran out of steam. Until Du Toit went off Curry was having no joy at the breakdown and did nothing of note in his first game and yet he’s many pundits nailed on 7. If Curry does start then I’d be confident that Mish could come off the bench on Saturday and make these pundits eat their words.

  9. Grant on

    It’s the perverse logic of picking Sam Simmons who looked good against the stormers , so is a must , but one number down the pack at 7 , sorry mish, but the stormers aren’t good enough we have to “rely” on ruby murry cos he looked good against the A- team replacements.

    Really Matt , even by your one eyed methods that and Mako , really still it served its click bait purpose , Matt Dawson will get lots of traffic so he can negotiate a better fee from auntie Beeb.

    So , now it’s time to chew our nails !

  10. Warks Scot on

    I can see a test team with no Scots starting, though a number on the bench. The Scot who is obviously a country mile ahead of the competition is Ali P – he has really shone on tour – but not sure WG is prepared to drop the captain (think Murray is still skipper now AWJ back?). I don’t personally agree but I can see why Curry and Williams could be chosen in place of Hamish & Hoggy, though a lot is based on reputation and previous form not necessarily objective. There is also the matter of who fits WG’s game plan best and known combinations. Sutherland deserves at least a bench spot but if Hamish & Hogg don’t start, I fear their lack of versatility could count against them. DvdM has so much competition and a number have stuck their hand up for back 3. And I can’t see a specialist winger being on the bench as will need cover for midfield – Daly could provide if started on the wing, which is unlikely and Farrell is way off form so suspect one of Daly or Harris will be on the bench to provide cover for wing and centre. But then I could be way wrong; it’s the Lions master plan that will count.

  11. Merlot on

    At the moment the only two players “nailed on” for starting are Itoje and Biggar.
    Watson v Curry is a debate that will run and run. Obviously the stats say Pinball – as does my heart and head, but if I was English I would say Curry has the edge and if I was Welsh or Irish I wouldn’t mind which was picked – they are both excellent.
    Similarly Hogg vs Williams – although that is more a difference in styles, the press putting it simplistically as attack vs defence.
    Most people would agree that Price has edged it in terms of form, but even I would have Murray starting, if only on experience, with Ali as an impact sub.
    Harris and Sutherland should both be in the 23, and it would be a travesty if they are not.
    DVDM has done everything he can but the back 3 is so competitive it will come down to how Gatland wants to approach the first test.
    Unfortunately I think Zander is 3rd choice behind Furlong and Sinckler. He’s got to really show something in training to knock those two out of the 23. Still, gotta be proud of being the top 3 tightheads in the British Isles.
    Finn may yet play a part, but it is looking less and less likely.
    My guess is Sutherland is the only Scot to start, with Watson, Price and Harris on the bench. Hogg to start the second test if Williams doesn’t have an absolute stormer.

      • FF on

        I’m not sure. Realistic isn’t the same as pessimistic.

        Ahead of tour selection I got laughed out of town on the guardian for suggesting 6-8 Scottish picks and if anything I thought I was pushing it.

        Scottish boys have done well. IMO we can be happy if Price, Hogg, Watson picked to start with Sutherland on the bench.

        Harris and DVDM could start (not bench) and Watson and Price could miss out. I’d be really shocked if Williams was selected ahead of Hogg.

      • Warmer on

        FF: I would like to agree with you but then we would both be wrong.
        Baring injury that outcome will not materialise though Hogg, Price and Watson might be in the 23, there is no likelihood of them all starting.

        While Gatland says back three and breakaways is the tough calls, I think the second row is another. I would like to see Lawes as he is the only one that will NOT rock up at a gunfight, with a pen knife.

        This is test match rugby, Gatland does not need to compromise . I think he has enough attackers to win the game, it is catching and tacking he needs. Watson and Price may be unlucky.

  12. Andyc on

    I just think gatland doesn’t give a rats arse about the media nonsense. I might be wrong but at least a couple of scots will make the 15. Tbh. I personally feel test 2-3 will be the ones for players left out. Think boks might give us a doing on Saturday

    • JohnMc on

      I think you will be right about a doing if there’s a selection bias in favour of presently under-performing players who’ve done well in a Lions shirt on the previous tour or in 6N games in the last two/three years.

      However, Gatland is a ruthless Test selector. He knows exactly what’s coming at the Lions this Saturday and will I hope pick a 23 that at the very least won’t get monstered up front in the opening half hour and can respond with interest to the Saffers’ kick and chase playbook.

      We’ve got eight on this tour who’ve done very well down to sort of ok so far (Fagerson being the only sort of ok one) so I hope to see maybe three or four of our eight in the Test 23 this Saturday, picked strictly on current form.

      Whatever, all of our eight have justified tour selection and that’s a huge plus for Scottish international rugby.

      • Andyc on

        Absolutely. This tour is so beneficial in a lot of ways players, and indeed coaching staff will be better for it. The attrional nature of SA means lots of these boys may well play. I have everything crossed for finn. Don’t think bigger 100% You mention zander. He could have a big part here. Could be last man standing

      • Auld Heidmaister on

        A pallative point , we have 3 tests which reminds me of a paraprosdokian expression.

        This test may not prove who was right, but it will determine who is left.

  13. pytelium on

    I think Gatland may favour the biggest players and of course Wales/England.He can easily justify..they have won the last two 6 nations. A good exercise is try to pick a starting 15 with no Scots or Irish. Easy to see Lawes and Beard in contention to the detriment of Henderson and Beirne for example. Its not beyond reason that all 3 captains Henderson,Murray and Hogg may not start . Another way of looking at it is try to name the players least likely to make the 23.Happy speculating! Good
    gamblers thrive on lateral thinking.

    • FF on

      I’d argue Beirne and Furlong are both near certain starters. Henshaw would be but for fitness doubts.

      Scotland doesn’t have any near-certainties but it does have a lot of players with strong claims to a shirt. I just don’t envisage all those 50:50 calls going against our players.

      Personally I don’t think Gatland cares about anything other than winning and he is much less conservative selector than is given credit for. I also think he rates Hogg highly and I’d be surprised if Williams pushes him out.

      For me 3 starters in first test is over the moon, 2 is happy days, 1 is disappointing and 0 is switching sides to support Boks.

  14. Andyc on

    Also the sheer physicality and brute strength will mean injuries Still believe Russell has a role to play if he can get over this injury issue. Also all six front rowers will feature because of SA Approach. So zander could well play a part

  15. pytelium on

    Beard has been mentioned little here
    but he is a real live contender.Conan is a starter or not in 23 type. Fagerson is a not in 23 type.

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