HAMISH Watson’s decision to sign a new long-term deal to stay at Edinburgh would be a major boost for the team at any time. Coming as it does in the wake of the news that Duhan van der Merwe and Andrew Davidson will be leaving for English clubs in the summer, it is especially significant for morale - not only at Edinburgh, but within Scottish rugby as a whole.

Edinburgh announced Watson’s new contract yesterday morning, less than 24 hours after head coach Richard Cockerill had promised that some “signings and re-signings” would be on the way over the coming days and weeks. As is the policy, no mention was made of the length of the 29-year-old’s agreement, but it is clear that Cockerill will be able to count on Watson as a cornerstone of his squad for at least several more years to come.

“This is really fantastic news for Edinburgh and a great statement on our plans for this squad for the seasons ahead,” the coach said. “We’re delighted he’s staying – any coach would be happy to have him – and will continue to bring his relentless approach to rugby every time he takes to the field.

“He’s an incredible, world-class athlete and rugby player and shows incredible commitment every time he takes to the field for club or country, but he also has a very good rugby brain. He’s a very popular and senior member of our player group and it’s great to have him committed to the club for the foreseeable future.”

Born in Manchester, Watson was a member of the Leicester Tigers academy before moving to Edinburgh in 2011. A decade on, and with 36 Scotland caps to his name, he insisted yesterday that he could not envisage himself turning out for another team.

“I have been at Edinburgh since I was 19 - it really is home for me and my family,” he said. “My two girls were born here and we’re so happy to be spending more of our lives here.

“I feel like we have both shown each other a great deal of loyalty. I love playing for Edinburgh. It means so much to me and, like I said last time round, I can’t see myself in another team’s jersey.”

That has not stopped clubs elsewhere from imagining the forward in their colours, and late last year he was linked with a return to England or a move to France. But, having been part of a squad that has matured considerably since Cockerill took charge in 2017 Watson is convinced that Edinburgh have the potential to go further.

While this season has proven to be difficult so far, with the team lying fifth in PRO14 Conference B after coming top of it last season, the forward believes that the forthcoming opening of the so-called mini-Murrayfield as a home venue will represent a significant step forward.

“I feel like the club has been, and is, heading in the right direction to win something over the next few years,” he continued. “That is what I believe this group of players is capable of and it would be great to do it for the club and the fans.

“All the players can’t wait to welcome all the fans back after Covid, to our new home. I personally can’t wait to see the fans again and continue this journey.”

As well as being capped by Scotland Under-19s and Under-20s, Watson was a Scotland Sevens squad member for a short time before signing a full-time deal with Edinburgh. He was understudy to John Hardie for a time when the New Zealander signed after the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but growing consistency soon made him the first choice for both club and country.

SCOTTISH referee Hollie Davidson will take charge of a men’s professional match for the first time a week on Saturday when she officiates the Challenge Cup tie between Newcastle Falcons and Castres.

She has already been an assistant referee this season in both the Challenge Cup and the Champions Cup, and has refereed in the Women’s Six Nations. “I am hugely excited by the appointment, and I’m looking forward to being tested at the next level of rugby,” the former Scotland Under-20 international said.