Anthony Watson has revealed the role a brutal text from his dad played in his recovery from a career-threatening Achilles injury.
The 25-year-old wing was sidelined for over a year with the Achilles problem sustained during his last appearance for England in March 2018 and he required two operations to restore him to health.
A roller coaster spell of rehabilitation took a mental toll, however, until some harsh words from his father Duncan during his darkest hour provided the lift he needed.
“Over the 13 months I’d say I had two or three days where I particularly felt ‘this is a nightmare’,” Watson said.
“The quicker you can snap out of those days, snap out of those moods and try 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’.
“I was just like ‘wow’ because you can never hit home more than that. It’s so black and white, but it’s so true. That was a real kick up the backside.
“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.”
Watson had plenty of reference points for his rehabilitation having previously overcome a broken jaw and hamstring injury – both suffered during England training – but a damaged Achilles presents its own issues.
“It was slow progress. The injuries I had before – hamstrings and jaw and stuff like that – got better and better,” he said.
“With an Achilles it can go up, down two, up one, up three. It’s very variable so it was just dealing with those days when you thought it was all going so smoothly and now it’s not going so smoothly.
“It was only painful for four days after the op. After that, you’ve got two weeks in a cast and those are the worst two weeks because you can’t do anything, you’re just sat at home doing nothing.”
Having been a part of Eddie Jones’ World Cup training squad from the start, Watson was told to sit out last month’s Bristol camp in order to spend time training with sprint coach Jason Dodoo in Loughborough.
Initially fearing what his absence meant for his Japan 2019 prospects, he came to realise the value of his week away from the main squad.
“At first I was a bit sketchy – not being with the lads was definitely sketchy – but when I had it explained to me why I was going up there and what it was for, I could understand….” Watson said.
“On the back of the week, how I felt coming into the Italy week, I didn’t see it right at the start but it was definitely the best thing that could have happened.”
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