Watson willing to throw himself into World Cup warm-up Test

The final practice match takes place in Newcastle against Italy on Friday night.

By Press Association Published: 5 September 2019 - 12.00pm


Rugby Union


Anthony Watson insists England will throw themselves into their final World Cup warm-up Test without fear of injury.

The clash with Italy at a nearly sold-out St James’ Park on Friday night is the last of the summer’s four fixtures before Eddie Jones’ men depart for Japan 48 hours later.

For any of the 20 involved in the Newcastle showdown who also are destined for the Far East – centre Joe Marchant and the benched Charlie Ewels and Matt Kvesic are not in the World Cup squad – to suffer a significant injury at this stage of preparations would be a bitter blow.

Joe Marchant will be involved in Newcastle but not in Japan
Joe Marchant will be involved in Newcastle but not in Japan (David Davies/PA)

Watson, however, insists players can not afford to adopt an attitude of self-preservation.

“You can’t worry about it and I’m not worried about it,” said Watson, who has been in fine form since recovering from a serious Achilles injury.

“As soon as you start going into contact at 85 per cent and start worrying about making sure you get on the plane on Sunday, you won’t play as well as you can and you’d probably get injured anyway.”

Watson’s third start of the summer will also be his fourth appearance at full-back for England after Elliot Daly was rested for the visit of Italy.

Daly has been first choice in the position since last summer’s tour to South Africa but the position was Watson’s until his Achilles issue struck at the end of the 2018 Six Nations.

“My mindset doesn’t really change that much. The roles of wing and full-back are very interchangeable,” Watson said.

“Playing wing in the last two games gives me a better perspective on what’s expected from the full-back and what the full-back expects from his wingers.

“I just need to be very vocal, apart from that nothing really changes. It’s very similar to playing full-back at club rugby.

Ruaridh McConnochie is set to make his England debut on Friday
Ruaridh McConnochie is set to make his England debut on Friday (Ben Birchall/PA)

“There are little intricacies that are different and there are details that are heightened, which you would expect from international rugby.”

Making his debut on the right wing is Watson’s Bath team-mate Ruaridh McConnochie, a World Cup bolter and sevens specialist who only began making waves in club rugby at the tail end of last season.

“Having played with Ruaridh at club level I now know a bit about him and want what to expect,” Watson said.

“He’s blown my mind in how he’s come into this set-up. He’s always hungry for knowledge and trying to learn, so nothing has really fazed him.

“He’s taken it in his stride and torn it up really, which is testament to him as a bloke. He’s deceptively strong in how he carries the ball. He never gives up and doesn’t go down easily.”