If you asked most professional players whether they would be happy with a Rugby World Cup semi-final appearance and a Grand Slam title by the age of 23, the vast majority would presumably bite your hand off. Not Owen Watkin, though.
“You want to be a British Lion, you want to be a 100-cap Welsh international,” he said. To be a Lion, Watkin will need to cement himself as a regular in the Wales side, something he hasn’t been able to do in the three years since his international debut against Australia.
With Hadleigh Parkes now out of contention for the Wales number 12 jersey after moving to Japan, Watkin will be among the front-runners to fill his place if he can stay injury-free.
“I don’t see it as one less rival, because there is always someone coming through to be in that position,” he said of the competition for midfield places with Wayne Pivac’s side, which also includes another fit-again Ospreys centre, Scott Williams.
Watkin sung the praises of the ex-Scarlets man: “Even when he was injured, he was always there. If I had any questions, I could go to him.
“Even though we’re competing internationally for the same jersey, we’re both there to help each other and get the best out of one another. He’s a top-class international.”
Watkin has not been able to add to his 23 caps for Wales since their third-place play-off defeat to the All Blacks at the World Cup nearly a year ago.
A knee injury kept him out of the opening Six Nations rounds, but Watkin remains philosophical.
“That’s part of the game,” he said, while also trying to take the positives from the COVID-enforced break.
“After the World Cup, I only had three or four games. For any player to have that time off without contact is a blessing.
“It was a good time to get my body right. I feel the fittest I’ve been.”
Everyone has had more time on their hands this year, and the lockdown has given the Ospreys man a chance to reflect on all he’s achieved.
“In the moment, you probably don’t realise how special, and how big, those achievements are, but I don’t think you can hang your hat on it,” he said. “It’s a good memory to have, and something you’re really proud of, but every player wants to achieve everything they can in rugby.”
Looking to the future, he continued: “I’ve got aspirations for Wales. I feel like I’ve got a lot more to offer rugby-wise – I’ve had a lot of stop-start with injuries but hopefully this will be a year where I don’t have niggles, I can keep performing and I can put my hand up for the things to come.”
After a steady showing in the Ospreys first league win away from home in 18 months, Watkin will on Tuesday likely be named in Wayne Pivac’s squad for the Autumn Nations Cup, and their final Six Nations match, against Scotland.
“There is maybe a bit of an opening there for me if I’m performing well and the coaches think I’m good enough.
“If I’m performing, hopefully I will get selected.”
If Watkin can make his mark in the Wales midfield, and with Warren Gatland – the man who handed him his maiden international opportunities – at the helm for the Lions next summer, the Ospreys man may well force his way into the picture.
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