HAMISH Watson is delighted to have arrived safe and sound in Japan ahead of this Sunday’s crucial Rugby World Cup opener against Ireland. Not least because his attempts to take on the world four years ago in England never got off the ground.

There is no good way to hear this kind of news but the flanker, a key man in Gregor Townsend’s plans for his ball carrying in the back row, was informed by Vern Cotter that he wouldn’t making the final cut for England in 2015 in the departure lounge at Turin Airport after a World Cup warm-up match against Italy.

“I’ve been thinking of the boys who didn’t make the 31 because I was there four years ago,” said Watson. “I was in the squad and then I got cut – after the Italy away game I think - in the airport after one of those Summer Tests. Different coaches do it differently, I guess. And It is hard to take.

“I thought I had an alright game off the bench, but I got pulled aside and told I wasn’t going to go. That’s just the way it is sometimes, in sport you just have to take it on your chin. In sport every player has had that kind of setback in their career, it is just about how you react to them.

“Some of the older guys who have missed out, it is really tough for them. While for some of the younger guys, they could have two or three world cups to come. They just need to go away and work on whatever they have been told to work on. And come back stronger.

“There are very small margins, from a squad of 44, the 13 boys who were cut are very good players. It is just little things in your game, sometimes just down to experience, or having a few more caps under your belt.”

As much as Watson speaks of his relief in making it as far as Nagasaki, where the Scotland team have begun training ahead of Sunday's opener, there was never any likelihood of him being left behind this time around. Amid the giants of the back row, this Manchester-born player who came through the ranks at Leicester Tigers before moving from Cheshire to Edinburgh sticks out like a sore thumb.

Listed as 6ft 1in, that low centre of gravity gives him something a bit different from the rest. Watson feels his game has progressed in the last four years, mainly in his capacity to link more fluently with Scotland’s quicksilver back line.

“I enjoy carrying the ball, or should I say I enjoy it when I am going forward!” said Watson, a former exponent of rugby sevens. “Not so much when I am getting smashed by about 40 Georgians!

“I hope I offer something a bit different form other back rows,” he added “Not all No 7s like to carry the ball, that is something I like to do, and I like to think I can do the other things that a 7 does as well. The lineout, I struggle a bit. Who knows I might be a line-out option in Japan …

“Every coach wants something different form you, every coach wants something slightly different” says Watson. “My name didn’t precisely fit what Vern wanted four years ago, but I feel I have also become a better player in those four years.

“I have learned to link up play with the backs more, we might run it through the backs a bit more, four years ago all I would have done was tuck the ball and try to carry it. I still do a bit of that but I like to think I have other parts to my game now.”

Watson rhymes off the same mantra as the rest of Townsend’s squad when it comes to their ambitions to bring the Webb Ellis Trophy back from Japan. While a marathon of a tournament requires the winners to build painstakingly over six weeks, it is nonetheless true that the meeting with our Celtic cousins in Yokohama is as tough as any we will face all tournament long. How Scotland fare there could shift this tournament in its axis.

“We have to go there to win,” said Watson. “People might say you are being a bit ambitious but if you are not going there to win there isn’t really much point in going. There’s no point in saying we want to reach the semis or get out of our group. We have shown on our day that we can beat any team in the world so that is the main focus.

“You look at all those games against the top three teams in the world rankings and we have either beaten them at home or pushed them pretty close, had games that we could and should have won.

“The flip side to all this is that you have got to take it a game at a time. Playing against Ireland will be one of the hardest games in the tournament. If you win that, you put yourself in really good stead. While if you lose, you could make it very, very hard for yourself."