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.
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.
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.