- U18 prospect Anthony Watson on Heroes Rugby Challenge and his development
- It will be a humbling experience says London Irish’s youngest ever player
Photo: Getty Images
World cup coaches Nick Mallett and Wayne Smith know what they’re up against when they take charge of the southern hemisphere side for the Heroes Rugby Challenge at Twickenham on Saturday, with Mallett quipping: "We’re full of 34-year-olds, they’ve got Anthony Watson who can run the 100m in 10.3 seconds."
London Irish youngster Watson, part of the northern hemisphere squad for the Help for Heroes charity game, is making rapid progress in his burgeoning rugby career and the 17-year-old is relishing the chance to learn as much as possible from the likes of teammates Ben Cohen and Will Greenwood and coaches John Kirwan and Dean Ryan.
But the real purpose of the week is not lost on the England Under 18 full back, who spoke about the humbling experience of playing for injured servicemen and women.
Watson, who became Irish’s youngest ever player in the Aviva Premiership when he stepped off the bench against Newcastle Falcons in September, said: "It’s going be a massive honour to play in the game alongside the likes of Will Greenwood and playing for such a great cause is really inspiring for me.
"I’ve seen what Dean Ryan has done with some of the younger guys at Gloucester and I think he’s done an awesome job so I’m hoping he’ll be able to teach me a few things out there.
"Not just the rugby but the week itself in going to visit injured soldiers at Tedworth House is going to be a humbling experience for me and I think that’s going to help me as a person.
"At 17-year-old I think it is going to change a lot of my perspectives towards life so I think it’s going to be a great thing to do."
Photo: Getty Images
Watson has a host of highlights in his short rugby career, picking up gold for England Rugby Sevens at this year’s Commonwealth Youth Games in the Isle of Man, and representing England U18 in the FIRA/AER Championships, scoring a scintillating last-minute try in the semi-final to beat Wales (see below).
And he is looking forward to playing at Twickenham again, the scene of another blistering try last season when he led his school St George’s College to the Daily Mail RBS Cup Under 16 Vase final.
He said: "It’s awesome to be here, it doesn’t get better than the home of English Rugby. I’m very happy with how things are going, I’m just going to keep my head down and keep training as hard as I can and see where that takes me.
"I was massively nervous before making my debut against Newcastle and if it wasn’t for Dan Bowden making me laugh when I came onto the pitch I would’ve been a bag of nerves but thankfully he did that and I was calm so I’m grateful for the coaches at London Irish for giving me that shot."
Watson has also been nominated for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year – one of a series of strong contenders alongside diving’s Tom Daley and tennis’ Laura Robson – and he took the opportunity to thank England Under 18 Head Coach John Fletcher for his mentoring role.
Photo: Getty Images
He added: "The youth set up that the RFU has got going is superb, you just have to look at the players in the first team who have come through that and it shows how successful it’s been.
"I can only thank John Fletcher, who’s been instrumental in my career, he’s a massive influence on me.
"It’s a huge honour to be just put in same bracket as Liam Broady and Laura Robson for the Young Sports Personality but I’m not sure what will happen in the long run. Tom Daley has won it three of the last four years but I don’t know if I’ll be able to wrestle it off him."
Heroes Rugby Challenge supported by J.P.Morgan on Saturday, December 3, 2011 at Twickenham Stadium, kicks off at 1630. Tickets are available via RFU.com, with a current 2-4-1 offer now running. Prices start at £30 for adults, £10 for under 16’s. You can also order tickets by calling 0844 847 2492. For more info visit: www.heroesrugby.org.uk