Why Anthony Watson Has Been Biggest England Success After 3 Games of Six Nations

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMarch 3, 2015

England’s Anthony Watson heads to the tryline against the Crusaders in their Canterbury Rugby Earthquake Relief match at AMI Stadium in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. (AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford) NEW ZEALAND OUT
Ross Setford/Associated Press

England's Six Nations tournament has seen a number of figures emerge from international obscurity to impress for the Red Rose, but none have given quite as much hope as Anthony Watson.

The Bath winger came into this year's tournament with no prior Six Nations appearances, but he is now nailed on as one of the first names in Stuart Lancaster's starting XV.

Some may argue club team-mate Jonathan Joseph or one of those among Lancaster's stellar back row deserves the plaudit as England's biggest success thus far, and each admittedly have their arguments in that regard.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 01:  Anthony Watson of England breaks away from Rory Best during the RBS Six Nations match between Ireland and England at the Aviva Stadium on March 1, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
David Rogers/Getty Images

However, the wings were an area mired in as much uncertainty as any other for the England coach coming into the tournament, with Watson giving his helmsman extreme comfort as a standout asset out wide.

It speaks highly of Watson's ability that even after performing so very well on the flank, some debate that he would still be best utilised at full-back.

Prior to the Week 3 meeting against Ireland, and with Mike Brown sidelined through concussion, OptaJonny compared his club figures with that of Saracens' Alex Goode, who ultimately took the No. 15 jersey:

OptaJonny @OptaJonny

@joshpeett 4 - @anthonywatson_'s last 4 Prem games have been at 15, he's made 6 CBs compared to 3 by Goode. Utility. http://t.co/IHOtx4xnHh

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After three Six Nations outings, Watson has racked up 137 carrying metres, making two clean breaks and beating 10 defenders in the process. Only Billy Vunipola (147), George Ford (140) and Jonathan Joseph (138) have made more yardage with ball in hand, while no other English player has beaten more defenders.

Despite the defeat in Dublin, Watson still managed to shine against Ireland and only the younger of the Vunipola siblings could boast a more direct impact in one-on-one situations:

OptaJonny @OptaJonny

4 - @EnglandRugby's B Vunipola (6), Watson (5), Goode, Nowell and Ford all managed at least 4 defenders beaten apiece in #IREvENG. Future.

It's somewhat staggering to believe Watson only made his Test debut last November, scoring his first international try in the Week 1 win over Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

The youngster's pace is no secret to the rugby community, but that particular score showed a more predatory, poacher-like quality to Watson:

For one so green, the pressure of a Six Nations may have been too much to cope with, but Watson has since maintained his high standards in the competition.

Ex-England coach Clive Woodward named the speedster one of England's most impressive players in the 47-17 win over Italy, writing for the Mail on Sunday:

"Anthony Watson built on his excellent performance in Cardiff and not only continues to look good in attack but made some very good tackles in the second half. These two [Watson and Jonathan Joseph] are nailed on now in this developing England back line."

BAGSHOT, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 24:  Anthony Watson runs with the ball during the England training session held at Pennyhill Park on February 24, 2015 in Bagshot, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
David Rogers/Getty Images

The only criticism of Watson in that performance may have been that his defence looked susceptible at times. Coincidentally, the Round 2 fixture was the only one in which he's missed any tackles thus far.

Nevertheless, England fans have seen the 21-year-old come of age in this, his first real involvement as a prominent member of Lancaster's clan, albeit having gained some very valuable experience training with the side in the past two years.

CARDIFF, WALES - FEBRUARY 06:  Anthony Watson of England is tackled by George North of Wales during the RBS Six Nations match between Wales and England at the Millennium Stadium on February 6, 2015 in Cardiff, Wales.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Woodward is one of those who also thinks Watson might perform better at full-back, were it not for the fact Lancaster had a less impressive line of wingers waiting in line.

Should we see more of the same from Watson over the course of the remaining Six Nations fixtures, he's assured of a place in the starting lineup for England's home World Cup.

Altogether, it's not bad work for a man still at the very beginning of his Test career, taking each and every obstacle in his considerable stride.

All statistics come courtesy of ESPN Scrum.


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