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, pictured, 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 level and my dad Les always brought me up to the Murrayfield games,” said the 25-year-old. “From boarding school, 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 has 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 the 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, 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.
“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.
“I’ve 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.”