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Anthony Watson holds no grudges at all towards New Zealand centre Sonny Bill Williams for smashing him in the face with his shoulder two years ago, after the Kiwi cleared the air in a fluke encounter in Fiji.
Williams’ red card changed the course of the British and Irish Lions’ tour of New Zealand in 2017 as the 14-man All Blacks went on to lose the second Test and – without the centre available – drew the third decisive Test to split the series.
With England’s Watson set to face New Zealand this Saturday – in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals – for the first time since the Lions series, memories of that incident could easily come flooding back for the wing, even if Williams is not selected – with Steve Hansen preferring Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue as his first-choice centre pairing.
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But Watson bares no scars from the hit, physically or mentally, and puts that down to a surprise meeting in the Pacific Islands three weeks after it happened.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” said Watson. “His height in the tackle was probably wrong, but I wouldn’t expect him to go in any less than 100 per cent.
“He was just doing what he thought was right at the time, but he apologised the day after and I saw him in Fiji two or three weeks after the tour as well. He’s a very nice bloke, very down to earth and I don’t hold any type of grudge against him at all. It’s rugby at the end of the day.
“It was completely random. Everyone was cracking up in the hotel, but we were just sat there as if nothing had happened, to be fair. I know it was a massive swing of momentum in terms of the Test and th
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