Athleticism and pace are the shining assets of Anthony Watson, who was a newcomer to England’s squad for the 2014 RBS 6 Nations Championship. His debut was off the bench against New Zealand at Twickenham in November that year and he also started on the right wing against South Africa, Samoa and Australia that month. Anthony’s maiden try against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in February 2015 rewarded his quick thinking and precision when he pounced on a Mike Brown grubber kick over the line.
He started all five Championship matches in 2015 and scored a second try in the 55-35 win over France at Twickenham in the final game. His repeat performance, bringing two tries in the first 17 minutes in the RWC warm-up game against Les Bleus at HQ in August 2015 was a crowd thriller. His footwork when running in the first was a delight followed by a shuffle and scorching pace for his second. He was the QBE Man of the Match.
Ireland were next on his agenda when George Ford hoisted a high diagonal kick that he caught almost on the line. He rose above Simon Zebo to dive over for his fifth Test try before breaking through two tackles to score his sixth against Australia in the RWC match in October 2015. Two more followed against Uruguay in the next game.
Twelve of his tries have been in his past 20 matches, including one against Ireland in February last year from Chris Robshaw’s floated pass. He appeared in all five Championship games in the Grand Slam season and scored the last of England’s 13 in the tournament against France by gathering a Ben Youngs’ grubber kick with deceptive ease and diving over at the corner.
A dynamic run and then a ‘hands and knees’ approach and stretch over the Wales line in the Old Mutual Wealth Cup in May last year was pure Watsonesque – opportunism and brilliance in a nutshell. His deft chip created a brilliantly-taken try by Mike Brown when England clinched a 3-0 series win over Australia in Sydney at the end of June. He missed the subsequent Old Mutual Wealth Series because of a broken jaw and the first three games in the 2017 Six Nations because of a hamstring injury. On his return against Scotland last March, Anthony came off the bench for the injured Elliot Daly and scored a well-worked try in the 61-21 victory. His first start at full back was when he won his 28th cap in the Australia Australia match at Twickenham this November in the absence of Mike Brown.
He joined Bath Rugby for 2013/14 from London Irish and when making his first Test appearance he had played in 37 Premiership matches, a total that has since increased to 69, with 15 tries. He marked his England Saxons’ debut with a long-range interception try against Ireland Wolfhounds at Gloucester in January 2014. The previous year, he helped England to win both the U20 Six Nations title and the Junior World Championship, making six starts overall – four on the wing and two at full back – to add to the five games he played for the side in 2012.
He had the unusual distinction in the space of three weeks in February 2012 of sandwiching a try for England U18 against France at Fylde between one off the bench for England U20 against Scotland and two against Wales at Twickenham Stoop. England won all three matches. Anthony went on to play in every Six Nations game that year and scored four tries, including one when his side clinched the title with a 20-9 win over Ireland at Adams Park that March.
His next try, from an interception, helped England U20 to beat New Zealand 33-21 in the 2013 IRB Junior World Championship semi-final along the way to their ultimate triumph over Wales in the final.
Looking back, a maiden try from the left wing in the 29-12 win over Ireland at Donnybrook in December 2010 gave Anthony and England U18 a flying start to that season. He had already played at full back against the Namibia Invitation XV and off the bench against South Africa the previous summer and added to his appearances in the 64-0 win over Italy at Heywood Road, Sale in February 2011.
Blistering speed brought his second try against Wales in the FIRA/AER Championship semi-final in Auch two months later and he was shortlisted for the 2011 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.
Anthony, born in Ashford, Middlesex, was an early starter in the game at Effingham & Leatherhead RFC when five and from there he advanced into the England U16 and U18 sides as well as becoming vice-captain at his school, St George’s College in Weybridge, where he studied chemistry, economics and PE. Anthony was also in St George’s Junior School U8 team that won the national title.
He made his A League debut for London Irish against Bath in October 2010, having previously been a member of Wimbledon Football Academy and had trials for Chelsea. Rugby is still his family’s game. Brother Marcus, a former member of the England U20 squad, played for England Sevens before joining Newcastle Falcons in the summer of 2015 and switching to Wasps for 2017/18. Their father Duncan spent half a season as a flanker with Saracens before a knee injury intervened.
His mentors were Mark Crean, his school coach, Neal Hatley and Justin Bishop in his time at London Irish and John Fletcher, the England U18 head coach, while Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Jonny Wilkinson and Israel Dagg are his most admired players.
He said: “The most unforgettable match in my earlier days was playing for England U16 when we beat Italy with the last kick of the match at the Stadio Flaminio.”
“Before converting to full back, I played at centre for two years and my ultimate ambition is to represent England at senior level and the British & Irish Lions.” He has now achieved both objectives by making his debut – and scoring a try - for the 2017 Lions in the opening tour match against New Zealand Provincial Barbarians at Whangarei last June. His first Lions Test was against the All Blacks at Auckland three weeks later and also started the other two matches at Wellington and Eden Park.
Looking back, Anthony initially played in the Premiership in September 2011 against Newcastle Falcons and made eight appearances in the competition for London Irish. In December 2011, he earned the accolade of playing for the Northern Hemisphere XV against the Southern Hemisphere in the Heroes Rugby Challenge game at Twickenham
75 points – 15T
2014 NZ(R), SA, Sam, A 2015 W, It, I, S, F, F, I World Cup - Fj, W, A, U 2016 S, It, I, W, F, W, A(1,2,3) 2017 S(R), I, Arg, A 2018 It, W, S, F
Lions: 2017 NZ(1,2,3)
Last updated: 12 March 2018