‘I can’t let that slide’: Anthony Watson responds to critics of England players taking the knee

Sixteen members of Eddie Jones’ squad made the gesture in support of the fight against racism

Duncan Bech
Friday 12 February 2021 09:07
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England players take the knee
England players take the knee

Anthony Watson has hit back at critics on social media objecting to England players taking a knee before Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations defeat by Scotland.

Sixteen members of Eddie Jones’ squad made the gesture in support of the fight against racism during a designated ‘moment of reflection’ before the Calcutta Cup defeat at Twickenham.

Watson is dismayed by the negative response of some supporters to England players taking the knee, arguing that athletes must be able to continue showing solidarity for the anti-racism cause.

“I just feel very strongly that it’s a double standard at the moment,” said the Bath wing, who starts Saturday’s match against Italy.

“Everyone wants athletes to have opinions and express themselves but when they do, a lot of people are shot in the foot for it or even more serious things can come from it.

Anthony Watson in England training

“Particularly with the kneeling stuff and the Black Lives Matter stuff, I think that if people were educated fully on why kneeling was started, then they would be in a much better place to comment on what we are doing and what is going on.

“Not everyone who is kneeling is directly associated with the Black Lives Matter organisation because some of their views, in my opinion, are extreme.

“But the importance of kneeling to raise awareness of social injustice is still massively important. So to see people on social media trying to discredit its importance...I can’t let that slide.

“My point is that people don’t really understand that not everyone who is kneeling is directly correlated to the Black Lives Matter organisation.

“People just want to jump on that because it’s their way of disagreeing with it instantly and, for me personally, I can’t let that slide.”

Watson has more sympathy for fans who were disgruntled by England’s backline being confined to a peripheral role against Scotland as what little possession they had was kicked away at half-back.

The 26-year-old accepts partial blame for his role in the misfire at Twickenham, but also stresses that the unpopular focus on kicking is designed to engineer tries on the counter-attack.

“Firstly, I would take individual responsibility in not communicating as well as I can do or not looking for the ball as much as I can do,” Watson said.

“That’s the first place I would look before I said anything about the game plan or how much we are kicking.

“Also, there is a time and a place for that type of rugby. Sometimes you have to take the option that’s on and the best option might be kicking in behind and chasing well.

“With Jonny May and Elliot Daly we have got two guys there who are very, very quick, can put pressure on and force a bad kick and that’s when our counter attack is most lethal.

“There is method to the madness. There is method to everything that we do. Sometimes people don’t fully understand why you do certain things.

“If it is there for us to run, I can guarantee you that we will be running the ball.”

PA

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