It only takes a few seconds on the phone for the sibling rivalry to kick in. Marcus Watson has just found out that his younger brother, Anthony, has recovered from a knee injury and will start at full-back for Bath on Sunday, setting up a family affair at the Ricoh Arena.
‘I bet he doesn’t pick up,’ says Marcus, the Wasps winger, calling from his home in Leamington Spa.
‘He’s been quiet because he gave it a lot last time — when I was playing for Newcastle — and he lost.’
Marcus Watson is looking forward to a family reunion on the rugby field this weekend
The Wasps star will line-up against his brother Anthony, pictured left with dad Duncan
MW: Hey mate, how’s your knee?
AW: Yeah it’s fine bro… it’s all right.
MW: I just wanted to remind you that it’s 1-0.
AW: Wait, I was on the bench… that does not count, no way!
MW: I knew you’d have an excuse.
AW: Muppet, you’re stitching me up!
MW: Haha. I’ll call you later.
AW: All right, bye!
It has been a successful year for the Watson family. Marcus won silver with Team GB in Rio in the Olympic Sevens, 23-year-old Anthony started every Test on the Lions tour of New Zealand and Callum, the youngest at 20, has played for England Students.
Now Marcus, 26, has switched to XVs and, after a season with Newcastle, he is hoping to emulate his sevens success. He also wants to make it 2-0 against his brother from the bench this afternoon.
‘A lot of the family are coming down to watch,’ says Watson. ‘Dad’s organised a box and he’s trying to get as many people down as possible. Cousins, aunties, friends, family friends, neighbours — he sent me a list of 23 people he’s got coming! I’d quite like a one-on-one against Ant…
‘We’ve always been competitive. Dad likes to tell the story about when Anthony whacked him in the stomach on a holiday in Cornwall, because he lost in a swimming race between us. Then there were computer games… Callum would be asking to play, so we’d give him an unplugged controller and he’d think he was playing – then Ant would cry because he lost. It was all going off!’
Marcus called Anthony to engage in some pre-match sibling banter before Wasps v Bath
Winger Marcus, pictured with girlfriend Emmi, was keen to remind Anthony he won last time
Comparisons with Anthony, a poster boy for English rugby, are inevitable for Marcus.
He put his XVs career on hold for four years and is now hoping to become a late bloomer in the long-form game. He swapped the jet-set sevens lifestyle for the Midlands and is making up for lost time.
‘I loved playing sevens,’ he says. ‘How often do you get the chance to go to the Olympics? On our first day, the first people we saw were Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. The opening ceremony was unbelievable, too, walking out alongside guys like Kevin Durant and Serena Williams.
‘Team GB had their own block of flats in the village and there were snooker and table tennis tables right outside our door. Andy Murray was our flagbearer and we ended up playing a round-the-world table tennis competition with him… he was a good guy but didn’t win any games!
‘They’re amazing memories. The offset was that I only started my XVs career properly when I was 24. There’s definitely some catching up to do.’
Wasps, with their free-flowing style, were the ideal destination for Watson. He has been reunited with Christian Wade, who he partnered on the wing at England age group level, and scored one of the tries of the season on his first start against Worcester last month.
Anthony has more England experience, but Marcus won an Olympic medal in the 2016 sevens
He marked Team GB’s silver success in Rio by getting the Olympic rings tattooed on his back
‘Wasps definitely play a brand of rugby that works with exciting runners, and people link that with sevens players,’ he says.
‘I’d seen how guys like Charles Piutau and Christian Wade, who I played with when I was 15 years old, had thrived with all these excellent playmakers inside them.
‘Ant’s a similar kind of player. The only rugby thing we talk about is footwork. He likes to step more off his right and I like to step more off my left. We talk about one-on-ones a fair bit. That’s a side we’re both really interested in.’
At home and at Wasps, Watson is surrounded by international experience to help with the transition. He lives with his girlfriend, Emmi, a wedding florist, and their French Bulldog, Elvis. It is driving distance to his parents in London and, now settled, he wants to step out of his brother’s shadow.
‘When I was younger, I always aspired to play for England in XVs,’ he says.
‘The dream was that, as the older one, I would play for England first and then Anthony would come along and join me.
‘Then the sevens came out of the blue when Ben Ryan called London Irish and asked if I could join them on loan.
‘I was mad keen to do it and, in my head, I was only going to do it for two years or so.
‘Things don’t always work out as you plan. My motivation now is to join Anthony in the England team. It’s flipped around a little but hopefully I get some runs against him over the next couple of years.’