Scotland star makes case for B&I Lions spot
SPOTLIGHT: Scotland flank Hamish Watson has been named Six Nations Player of the Championship by fans after winning the biggest ever vote for the award.
The 29-year-old put in a series of superb performances as Gregor Townsend’s Scotland beat France, England and Italy over the course of a campaign that captured the imagination of fans.
The final round win over France was Scotland’s first in Paris since 1999, while the victory over England was the first at Twickenham since 1983.
Losses against title winners Wales and Ireland came by narrow margins of just one and three points respectively.
Watson was an all-action performer in the Scottish back-row, missing just 14 minutes over the course of five matches. He scored one try and provided one try assist, carried 67 times for 321 metres, and successfully made every single tackle of his 55 in defence.
The fan vote was as keenly contested as ever with the Edinburgh star capturing 35 persent of over 125 000 votes cast by fans to finish ahead of 2020 winner Antoine Dupont of France, Louis Rees-Zammit and Taulupe Faletau of Wales, and Ireland duo Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Beirne.
The six nominees were chosen by a panel of media comprising two media representatives from each participating nation.
Hamish Watson is the second Scot to claim the award since its inception in 2004, joining Stuart Hogg 2016 and 2017 winner on the Roll of Honour. He is the 15th player to be named Player of the Championship. Gordon D’Arcy, Martyn Williams, Brian O’Driscoll (3), Shane Williams, Tommy Bowe, Andrea Masi, Dan Lydiate, Leigh Halfpenny, Mike Brown, Paul O’Connell, Hogg (2), Jacob Stockdale, Alun Wyn Jones and Dupont are the previous winners of the coveted crown.
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Upon presentation of the trophy in Edinburgh Watson commented: “I’m very surprised, obviously loads of top players were up for the award. I think when you do win something like that, it’s full credit to the team I’m in as well and to all of the guys who have won it previously.
“It shows what good teams you’re playing for. The Scotland team we’re all playing in at the moment is a great team and we really believe we can achieve things in the next few years.
“We think we’re heading in the right direction and full credit to the whole team, because without them, boys can’t win these personal accolades.”
Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill believes Watson is now a firm favourite to make Warren Gatland’s cut ahead of the Lions’ tour of South Africa.
“He has been the standout for Scotland,” said Cockerill.
“He has been consistently good. He hasn’t just played one game then had an average game the next.
“He has probably been Scotland’s best player the whole way through, so when I saw him nominated it didn’t then come as a huge surprise that he won the award as he has been very, very good in every single game he has played. We are delighted for him. We have got the player of the tournament for the Six Nations playing for Edinburgh, which is a credit to him and to the club. Hopefully, that will put him in a really strong position for the Lions tour coming up South Africa.
“He has put himself in a very strong position to be part of that selection conversation. He is probably in one of the strongest positions that the Lions can pick from so he cannot have done any more to put himself in the selection picture.
“No one would be surprised if he gets selected for the Lions. However, there are some other very good players from the other countries. But he could not have done any more than what he has, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that an opportunity comes along.”
Ben Morel, Six Nations Rugby CEO, said: “Our heartfelt congratulations go to Hamish on a fantastic campaign in what was a superb year for Scotland. He is a player who gives absolutely everything on the field and that has clearly resonated with fans.
“It’s fantastic that alongside very strong television viewing we are seeing ever stronger engagement across all digital platforms. I want to extend my thanks to each and every fan who took the time to vote, and to everyone who is part of the Six Nations community for your contribution to making this a hugely enjoyable and successful Championship.”
Mark Sandys, Global Head of Beer at Diageo, said, “On behalf of the team, well done to Hamish on a superb Six Nations campaign in 2021.
“As ever, we’re proud to support the award and particularly delighted that the trophy will go to a such a fantastic player who has thrilled supporters the world over this Championship. Well done to Hamish and we look forward to seeing him and the rest of this fantastic Scotland team light up the Championship again in 2022.”