Fans have taken to Twitter to obliterate a theory from controversial British writer Stephen Jones that Scotland flanker Hamish Watson is “too light” to face the Springboks in this year’s British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
Watson was in career-defining form in the Six Nations, earning a nomination for the Player of the Tournament for the first time over contemporaries such as Tom Curry, Justin Tuperic, and Josh van der Flier.
The 29-year-old beat out Antoine Dupont, Tadhg Beirne, Louis Rees-Zammit, Taulupe Faletau and Robbie Henshaw to win the award, becoming just the second ever Scot to do so after current captain Stuart Hogg, who has won twice.
The rugged play of Watson helped Scotland to three wins, including key away victories over England and France for the first time in Six Nations history, from five matches.
His form has rightly put the 41-test international into the debate over British and Irish Lions selection for the upcoming tour of South Africa to face the world champion Springboks, but UK writer Stephen Jones has put Watson in the ‘too light’ category.
Jones wrote in The Times that Watson “may be the best in the Six Nations, but he should not be on the Lions tour” in a column titled ‘Lightweight Hamish Watson is no match for the Springboks‘.
He feared that the Scot would offer a physical mismatch advantage to the Springboks in both height and weight as Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph Du Toit would tower over him.
“Watson, at 6 foot 1 and 16 stone, could be giving away as much as eight inches and four stone to opponents,” he wrote as he also rubbed out Welsh pair Josh Navidi and Tipuric under the same criteria.
Jones’ own criteria would also rule out England flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill, who are exactly the same height as Watson.
Standing at 1.85m, Watson is listed at 102kg, which is a similar weight to other world-class flankers such as former Lions captain Sam Warburton, All Blacks star Ardie Savea and Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper.
Hoards of Twitter users piled in to debunk Jones’ theory, with one highlighting the last time the Springboks lost a test, in the 2019 World Cup against the All Blacks, the Kiwi’s flankers were Sam Cane, listed at 103kg, and Ardie Savea, listed at 99kg.
Loath to give this much attention, and there's more to it than weight, but briefly:
Sam Underhill is 103KG
Ardie Savea is 99KG
Michael Hooper is 101KG
Sam Cane is 103KG
Justin Tipuric is 100KG
Sam Warburton was around 103KG when he played
All too lightweight to take on Boks…?
— Jamie Lyall (@JLyall93) April 11, 2021
Hamish Watson doesn't need to be any heavier.
It's his power to weight ratio that makes his so special.
Same as Ardie Savea etc.
— Paul Williams (@thepaulwilliams) April 11, 2021
Last time South Africa lost a Test match the opposition flankers were Sam Cane (listed at 103kg per https://t.co/R8QUAQuqTx) and Ardie Savea (listed at 99kg on https://t.co/R8QUAQuqTx). https://t.co/9WvCbUDw05
— Kevin Millar (@topofthemoonGW) April 11, 2021
This Hamish Watson stuff. Sure it’s been said but shades of Neil Back narrative 20 years ago. No one impressed me more than Watson in 6N (Lions qualified players).
— James Peacock (@jamespeacock79) April 11, 2021
Couldn’t disagree with @stephenjones9 more about Hamish Watson and the Lions but he’s allowed his opinion!
— SJ Evans (@evz76) April 11, 2021
It’s not about weight. It’s about power. Hamish Watson is ridiculously powerful and committed. To suggest he’s too lightweight to be effective against SA shows a real lack of understanding of the modern game. I think Stephen Jones’ journalism is what is really lightweight
— Gareth White (@GJBlanc) April 11, 2021
If Hamish Watson is the best flanker in the Six Nations but shouldn’t be a Lion and the Lions are chosen from 4 of those nations, where exactly does he think this mythical perfect flanker is to be found?
— Elaine R (@EirishR) April 11, 2021
Stephen Jones calling Hamish Watson too light to face Boks is exactly what I hate about this sport.
He’s proven himself in every way as a top rugby player who can tackle, who can score tries, who can gain metres and beat defenders.
But he’s not on 12 protein shakes a day…
— Ruaraidh Britton (@RuaraidhB) April 11, 2021
Re Hamish Watson. Fantastic player, great at what he does, but limited(his passing stats are awful) and he doesn’t consistently dominate his collisions. Metres after contact might be a more telling stat for his effectiveness. A few decent gif moments does not a Lion make.
— Shadwell Jones (@ShadwellJones) April 11, 2021
Watson last played the Springboks in 2018 as Scotland fell short 20-26 at Murrayfield during South Africa’s end of year tour. Both sides scored two tries apiece as penalties proved to be the difference.
The Scottish flanker scored one of his team’s tries from a set-piece special to cap off an overall solid performance against South Africa’s first choice back row of Kolisi, Du Toit and Duane Vermeulen.
Watson completed 11 tackles from 11 attempts and carried eight times for 18 metres, making one clean break.
Aiding Watson’s chances of Lions selection is the pending appointment of Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend as one of Warren Gatland’s assistants for the tour.
According to The Times, English trio Andy Farrell, Steve Borthwick and Graham Rowntree have all pulled out of touring with the Lions, paving the way for Townsend to join Gatland’s coaching staff.
Gatland is reportedly set to confirm those changes this Tuesday.
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