Anthony Watson has hammered out a warning to incumbent England full-back Elliot Daly by declaring he is coming back an improved player after Achilles surgery.
Lions star Watson ended his 13-month injury nightmare against Sale last week and showed enough during 75 minutes in the No.15 shirt to suggest he is fully recovered.
The 25-year-old flyer now has sights set on helping to salvage Bath’s season and hitting top form in time to spearhead England’s World Cup bid in Japan.
Watson, who underwent two bouts of surgery after originally tearing his Achilles against Ireland in last year’s Six Nations and then re-rupturing it during a photo-shoot four months later, told TRP: “I definitely believe I’m coming back a better player. The amount I’ve developed in the last 13 months is unquestionable.
“It was great to return against Sale and know my body wasn’t holding me back. That’s credit to all the guys at the club and everyone who’s helped me on the journey.
“Last summer was a tough period. I had to sit at home for two weeks after my second operation mulling it over and thinking how much longer I’d added on to my recovery.
“That was really hard but the longer you dwell on your misfortune, it’s just time wasted when you could be bettering yourself.
“My main focus since then has been on trying to make sure everything is pretty much perfect and not leaving anything to chance. Going through that changed my perspective and gives me a better understanding of what I’m capable of.
“That can all translate back on the pitch and it has for me. I guarantee the hard work I’ve done over the last 13-months will bear fruit.”
Watson received a boost in February when he was summoned by Eddie Jones into England’s Six Nations training camp for a fitness assessment – a sure-fire indication he will have a big part to play in the World Cup campaign.
He said: “The England coaches stayed in touch during my recovery and I can’t speak highly enough of them for keeping tabs on me. When you’re out for so long it’s easy to fall off the radar and not get any communication, but they kept in contact which was really appreciated.
“I went into camp after the Wales game and it was great to see everyone. There were quite a few new faces as well and it was good to meet John Mitchell, our new defence coach, and get into the loop with him.
“I’d be lying if I said the World Cup wasn’t in my mind as a driver and there were phases where I thought about it a lot. But I’m totally focussed on getting back playing well for Bath because I’ve missed playing so much. Once the season is over, the World Cup will come right into view.”
Bath’s season has been one of contradictions – impressive one week, dire the next – and Todd Blackadder’s side are in last chance saloon territory if they want to keep alive their hopes of Champions Cup rugby next season.
With Blackadder and assistant coaches Toby Booth and Darren Edwards leaving at the end of the season, coaching upheaval cannot have helped.
However, Watson insists: “As a professional player, you can’t make excuses about stuff like that and it’s not one we’re using. What we should be doing is preparing for 80 minutes today, irrelevant of any disruption that’s going on, and that’s certainly my attitude.
NEALE HARVEY / Photo: Getty Images
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