RICHARD Cockerill has called on his Edinburgh players to hit the ground running this season, and one man who seems certain to do that is Hamish Watson. Playing for the first time in five months following shoulder surgery, the Scotland openside was a dynamic presence in his team’s narrow defeat by Bath on Friday night, displaying little or no sign of what would have been an understandable rustiness.

Part of the reason for Watson’s liveliness may have been the fact he knew beforehand that he was only going to play half the match, as Cockerill made wholesale changes at half time in order to give as many players as possible a run out against quality opposition. Nonetheless, there was no mistaking the 26-year-old’s quality in the 12-10 defeat, even if he insisted that for a friendly it had been a fairly gruelling reintroduction to action.

“This is the freshest I’ve felt coming into a season for a while,” Watson said. “It’s also the first full pre-season I’ve done for a while. I want to say it was pretty good, but it was pretty horrible.

“It was great to get back out there, having not played since the last Six Nations game against Italy. It was a good test for my shoulder, my first 40 minutes back, and I felt good.

“There were a lot of tackles to make in that first 20 to 25 minutes. It was pretty tough. They kept the ball really well – they’re quite a typical Premiership team in that way, going round the corner, sending the big forwards round.

“I was only ever going to play 40 minutes; all week we’d be prepping with two teams. It might be different on Friday against Newcastle.”

Given that Bath were able to bring players of the calibre of Welsh international Jamie Roberts off the bench to ensure they ended up on the winning side, it was a respectable result and performance from Edinburgh. While the likes of Watson and Stuart McInally represented continuity in the pack, several key signings in the back division offered a glimpse of what Cockerill hopes is at once a more solid and creative area of the team. Ex-Glasgow scrum-half Henry Pyrgos looked sharp, former New Zealand Under-20s captain Simon Hickey gave hints of his ability at stand-off, and, on his return from Gloucester, inside centre Matt Scott showed up well in both defence and attack.