Watson ready to set Wales record

Should Ian Watson walk onto the pitch for Wales against Italy on Sunday in Wrexham (kick-off 3pm), it will be a record breaking 27th appearance for him in the Welsh shirt.

Watson made his debut for Wales in 1995 against USA in Philadelphia and now, 15 years later, he is set to beat Jim Sullivan’s long standing appearance record. The Wigan legend played 26 times for Wales between 1921 and 1939.

“It’ll be a big honour for my family and I,” said Watson. “With the names up there already like Jim Sullivan, Anthony Sullivan and Iestyn Harris, it’s a big thing for me and a record that I’d be proud to hold.”

Watson will always be grateful for Clive Griffiths for giving him a chance on the USA tour where as an 18-year old, he played alongside established stars like Dai Young, Rowland Phillips, Scott Quinnell, Adrian Hadley, Gerald Cordle and Martin Hall as well as fellow up and coming youngsters Iestyn Harris and Keiron Cunningham, with the Saints hooker making his Wales debut in the same game.

“The USA tour was a great trip,” Watson remembers. “We had a very experienced team with a lot of greats from rugby league and rugby union. It set me off in good footing for my future career.

“Every game I play for Wales is a big honour and I’ve heard that some people have wanted to discount the games that we played against USA which is a disgrace in my opinion. As a player, we count our caps – every international you play should be counted like it is in football. During England football friendlies you sometimes see about 10 subs coming on and that’s still considered to be an official cap! Every player in every sport wears their international shirt with pride, I have always recognised my two games against USA as my first two caps and there were a couple of players on that tour that only played for Wales in those games. To play for your country is massive and you can’t take that away from anyone.”

Watson is now looking forward to the Italy test on Sunday in Wrexham before the challenge that is the Alitalia European Cup.

“Wrexham is a great stadium,” he said. “I played in both of the previous Wales games there. We beat Cook Islands in the 2000 World Cup and lost to England a year later but had a good team performance. I remember it as a great ground and a good pitch to play on.

“This year is massive for us. We need to do what we did last year, win the European Cup and get into the Four Nations. The lads have more experience this year and we can kick on even further. If we top the group, it will be a great boost for the nation.

“We’ve a young team but have experience players too like Lee Briers, who’s a good player who knows the game inside out. There’s a lot of things that we can all learn off him. It’s great for the younger players to have him around and hopefully he can help us to victory this October.”

Tickets for the historic Wales v Italy match can be bought by going to www.walesrugbyleague.co.uk, by calling into the Wrexham club shop or phoning 01978 262129.

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