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Hamish Watson feels more confident about this Scotland team following his Lions experience and is going into the November Tests refreshed after a chance to rest a lingering injury.
Watson was one of eight Scots in the summer tour of South Africa but only featured in one Test match, coming off the bench in the opening win against the world champions.
But he made five appearances in all and left the tour with the belief that Scotland have a group of players to match any other in the home nations.
Having been named Guinness Six Nations player of the tournament earlier in the year, the 30-year-old could not have done much more to convince Warren Gatland of his worth.
When asked about his lack of Test minutes, the flanker said: “It’s a weird one, I have tried to move on from there now, that’s three months ago. But I look back on the Lions tour with fond memories. I really enjoyed my time out there.
“Game-time wise in the Tests I would obviously have like to have played more but in the last few years I did everything I could to get selected for that tour and performance wise and training wise.
“So I have no regrets from it and different coaches like different things, and one different thing sometimes and that’s the way professional sport goes.
“I still look back on that tour and had a really good time. Selection is selection.”
Watson will get the chance to pit himself against South Africa later this month after taking on Australia on Sunday, and he goes into the games increasingly confident in Gregor Townsend’s squad following his summer experience.
“You are probably a better player without knowing it,” the Edinburgh forward said. “It’s not like you are learning anything new skill-set wise but just being around those sort of players, being in that atmosphere and in that environment for eight weeks, subconsciously you will pick up stuff that helps.
“The fact we have eight Scottish boys coming back into camp now will hopefully feed back to the group and just help the group grow. The Scottish boys got a lot of confidence from that tour coming back and realising how good our group is as well.
“We were out there with the so-called best players in the UK and Ireland but it also filled us with confidence that a lot of our boys could have also been out there that didn’t go.
“We are pretty confident with the squad we have got moving forward and I think it probably has helped the boys who were away.”
41' | There's been a change at half-time. OFF: Hamish Watson – ON: Luke Crosbie
🏴 36 – 9 🇹🇴 pic.twitter.com/fEcyDcqmGv
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 30, 2021
Watson made his first appearance of the season in last weekend’s emphatic win over Tonga, coming off at half-time as planned.
“My groin has been bothering me for a while so it was great to get some time off after the Lions tour and have a good bit of a rehab block as well,” he said.
“It probably wasn’t the ideal circumstances to come back into an international but it was good to get 40 minutes under my belt.
“The other Scottish Lions were only back a week before me so it’s not as if I missed a mad amount of rugby. I feel like I am in a good place now and hopefully those sort of issues are behind me now.
“You have to be fighting fit for all these games and if I wasn’t fit I wouldn’t have played last week against Tonga. I felt good in that game and the plan was always to get limited game time.”