Watson groomed for England

2014-11-13 21:04
Anthony Watson (Getty Images)

London - Anthony Watson might be an unfamiliar face to many England fans but when the pacey 20-year-old wing runs out at Twickenham for his first test start on Saturday it will be the natural culmination of a carefully planned journey.

Watson's father Duncan played for Saracens before a knee injury brought a premature end to his career, while his older brother Marcus was a former England junior player who is now an integral part of the national sevens squad eyeing Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.

Anthony followed his brother through England's carefully structured age-group system, though he was so good he was helping the Under-20s win their World Cup at 17, the same age at which he made his Premiership debut for London Irish.

Overseeing his teenage progress had been a certain Stuart Lancaster, formerly head of England's elite development department, and once he became head coach he was quick to bring Watson into the senior squad and took him on this year's New Zealand tour.

"I know him well. He's got all the physical attributes you need. He's tall, good in the air, has pace, good footwork and technical ability," Lancaster said on Thursday after bringing Watson in for injured Bath team mate Semesa Rokoduguni in the only change from the starting team beaten by New Zealand.

"It would have a big step for a 20-year-old to start in a match against possibly the best winger in the world (Bryan Habana) but in my conversations with him what came across was how confident he was and how prepared he was. He is definitely ready."

In Lancaster's England "ready" means a lot more than being in form for your club. The coach is a huge believer in new players absorbing the culture and processes, not to mention the tactical minutiae, before being given their chance.

"That time in New Zealand, being really immersed for three weeks, helped me massively," Watson said of the tour when he appeared for the midweek side and scored a try against the Crusaders.

"Being in the set-up since the Under-16s and being comfortable in the environment just makes it easier and I'm just really looking forward to trying to do my bit for the team."

Both his rugby-playing brothers and dad will be proudly watching as Watson runs out on Saturday but his mother will be a more reluctant guest.

"She hates it," he said.

"She's Nigerian but she's somehow developed a love for tennis and snooker.

"She doesn't like rugby, probably from watching all the hits over the years, but she will be there -- even if she spends the whole time watching through her hands."



15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Dave Wilson, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler

Substitutes: 16 Robert Webber, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 George Kruis, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 George Ford, 23 Marland Yarde

South Africa:

15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Bakkies Botha, 20 Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Cornal Hendricks

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