Hamish Watson is back in the running for a place in the Scotland squad to face England on Saturday after making a successful comeback from injury in Edinburgh’s 22-19 defeat by the Sharks at the weekend.

The openside forward had been out of action since being concussed while playing against the All Blacks in November, but throughout his recovery was always targeting a return to action in time to take part in the opening round of the Six Nations.

Edinburgh coach Mike Blair had originally planned to play Watson for only part of the league match on Saturday evening, but an injury to his fellow-back-row forward Bill Mata meant the 31-year-old stayed on for the whole game.

“He carried a lot of ball,” Blair said after the match at the DAM Health Stadium. “It was great to see him putting himself about for a full 80, having not played in such a long time. He battled his way through it.”

Indeed, after playing his part in a first-half comeback which saw Edinburgh go from 14-0 down to 19-14 up at the break, Watson was also heavily involved in a late bid to snatch a narrow win. Twice in stoppage time his team kicked a penalty to touch in search of what would have been a winning try rather than go for goal and settle for the draw.

But the South Africans’ defence held firm, and as a result the Sharks are now just ahead of Blair’s team in eighth place in the URC table.

It was a frustrating conclusion to the game, and brought to an end a run of three victories from the start of the year – first against Zebre in the league and then against Castres and Saracens in the Champions Cup.

With five games of the regular season still to go, Edinburgh have time to fight their way back into the play-off places. But the picture is complicated by the fact that two other teams from the Scottish-Italian group, Glasgow and Benetton, are above them in the table; if things stay that way, Edinburgh will not qualify for next season’s Champions Cup – unless they win it this season.

Blair, as in previous narrow defeats, insisted that he was proud of the commitment shown by his players but also frustrated by the outcome. Tighthead prop Murray McCallum, the former Worcester Warriors player who was making his second debut after re-signing as a free agent this month, confessed to a similar mix of emotions.

“You never want to lose,” he said. “You play the game to win. Even when you lose graciously, with all that effort it’s still s****.

“You never learn to lose. But the fact that I was able to come back to this club and help out, and I want to help them compete at the highest level, I’m just delighted to be here.”

Still only 26, McCallum made his professional debut for Edinburgh in 2016, and stayed for five years before briefly moving to Glasgow. He joined Worcester last year, but found himself unemployed along with the rest of the squad after the English Premiership side went into administration.

Although McCallum was only away for 18 months, there were significant changes in his absence, notably Blair coming in as coach and the DAM Health Stadium being opened.

“It’s a very different environment,” he said. “It is still one that you can progress as a player and a team. We’re still working hard and we don’t shy away from that. There have not been many changes in terms of the players and even some of the staff, and that has helped me slot back in reasonably effortlessly. I’m happy.”

McCallum was one of many Edinburgh players who did not always see eye to eye with Blair’s predecessor Richard Cockerill, but rather than examining old wounds, the front-row forward preferred to take responsibility for some of the things that went wrong towards the end of his first spell.

“A few things have happened for me on and off the pitch [since],” he added. “I’ve been able to look at myself and think how maybe the back end of my last time at Edinburgh didn’t go my way and what I could have done better. I’ve been able to look at my game around the scrum and I’ve been lucky enough to play in the Premiership. It’s a different game down there. I feel I have certainly progressed that part of my game and I want to just keep learning.

“My contract here is to the end of the season. Whatever happens after that we’ll see. All I know is that I am 100 per cent focused on Edinburgh and putting myself in the best possible position to play rugby for this team until the end of the season at least.”