Anthony Watson was on holiday in Fiji when he bumped into his assailant. It brought back memories of the Lions Test where an All Black turned his lights out with a red-card tackle. But Watson was not spooked by New Zealand two years ago and has no fear of them now.

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Sonny Bill Williams was the tackler in Wellington in a second Test the Lions won 24-21 en route to a series draw. Williams, who was banned for four weeks for smashing into Watson's head with his shoulder, is in the New Zealand squad who face England on Saturday.

"Yeah, it was completely random," Watson says of the unscheduled Fiji reunion a fortnight after the series finished. "Everyone was cracking up in the hotel, but we were just sat there as if nothing had happened. I know it was a massive swing of momentum in terms of the Test and the impact it had, but I didn't see it as the big deal that was made out – that there was a massive drama, and that we were going to hate each other for the rest of our lives, or anything like that. We just talked about all kinds of stuff; about rugby and about his family and stuff like that. It was just a general conversation – we didn't talk about the tackle."

Watson, who played superbly against Australia in Oita, is no more perturbed by meeting New Zealand in a World Cup semi-final than he was Williams on his holiday. The 2017 Lions tour showed the world champions of 2011 and 2015 to be mortal and Watson has not forgotten the lesson.

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 Anthony Watson on the charge in the first test between the All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions in 2017. Photo / Alan Gibson
Anthony Watson on the charge in the first test between the All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions in 2017. Photo / Alan Gibson

He says the Lions drawing in New Zealand still has relevance: "As an experience, 100 per cent. But for me it doesn't change the mindset. I believe I had that mindset before: that they were beatable. The boys came close to beating them in November.

"I was never too fazed by the whole mystique of the All Blacks. I respect the prolonged success they've had as a team, but the whole aura that surrounds them and the invincible stuff – I never bought into that. They are rugby players and we're rugby players. We work very hard and they work very hard. They are definitely beatable."

England's confidence has been raised by the quarter-final win against Australia and the psychological fortitude on display in Oita. Watson says: "I think the mental part of the game is definitely massive. We will not let the occasion of the game dictate anything to us. I thought we did that very well last weekend and that was managed by our leaders like Owen [Farrell], Maro [Itoje] and Mako [Vunipola]. Guys like that were on it all week and it will be the same again this week."

Watson's impressive form carries him into a confrontation with New Zealand's finest wingers. He says: "Sevu Reece was the first person I played against on that New Zealand tour. I think he played for the Provincial Barbarians. I remember thinking he was a class player. He had good feet and was very strong. He's definitely a good player and it's the same with George Bridge. You saw those tries he scored against Tonga. Give either of those two too much space and they can cause difficulties for you. We'll have to be defensively aware of the threats they pose."

New Zealand present a significantly different challenge to the Wallabies. "The attack will be more varied, potentially, they will use their kicking a game a bit more than Australia perhaps did on Saturday," Watson says.

"Defensively, in terms of how they throw the ball around in different areas of the pitch, it is kind of similar, so we will have to be on the money in that regard. But there's opportunities for us as well, going forward. We've looked at that so far and we will continue to do that and implement a few things."

Staying in Tokyo's Disneyland appeals to Jonathan Joseph but not his good friend Watson, who says: "I don't know, it's a weird one. I am not a big fan of Disney. A few boys are – Jonathan Joseph is a massive fan. Loves 'Frozen' - and what's the other one as well? Any kind of musical. I promise you, I'm not even lying, I swear. He listens to it in his car."

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They will all be back in a very grown-up world on Saturday.