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It was inconceivable 17 months ago that Anthony Watson would miss the Rugby World Cup. The England back started all three British and Irish Lions tests in 2017 and had grown into a mainstay of Eddie Jones’ starting XV, regardless of the sudden loss of form that hit the national team in the 2018 Six Nations. But that season brought more than just disappointment for the Bath star as it triggered the start of his year-long injury “nightmare”.
Watson is back in the international fold after recovering from a serious Achilles injury, having initially torn his ankle tendon before suffering a major setback when surgery failed to fix the issue.
On Sunday, Watson is in line to make his return to Test rugby in England’s first Quilter International against Wales, nearly a year-and-a-half since the last time he pulled on the red rose. That came in the 2018 Six Nations defeat against Ireland, which proved to be the start of his torrid journey through surgery, dark thoughts and rehabilitation – only to do it all over again.
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“There were a few days,” recalled Watson from England’s training HQ in Bagshot. “Over the 13 months I’d say I had two or three days where I was particularly like ‘this is a nightmare’, but I think the quicker you can snap out of those days, snap out of those moods and try to focus on what you’re trying to achieve then the better you are for it.
“I texted my dad saying I was struggling with something and he just replied ‘mate you’ve got to get on with it or you’ll never play rugby again’, and I was just like (wow) you can never hit more home than that. It’s so black and white but it’s so true, if you really want to play rugby again you’ve got to do everything you can to get back playing rugby again. You can’t just sit and mope around. That was a real kick up the backside.”
The frustration soon returned, though not as bad as the really hard days at the start of his recovery when he spent two weeks in a cast unable to leave his house.
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