LEE Jones is determined to make the most of his long-awaited return to the Glasgow starting line-up in this evening’s Pro12 match against Treviso.
The Scotland wing has not started for the Warriors since 6 September, the opening day of the season, when Glasgow secured a dramatic 22-20 victory over defending champions Leinster at Scotstoun.
He did make a fleeting appearance against the Dragons a fortnight later but Jones’ only other competitive rugby has come at the Gold Coast Sevens. Yet, despite his belated return to the 15-man game at Scotstoun tonight, the 26 year-old says he will not let the pressure to perform affect him as Glasgow try to at least stay in the top two of the Pro12 going into the autumn Tests break.
Jones said: “It is great to be back and there is no doubt this is a very good opportunity and a very important one for me but I will try to approach it like it was any other game.
“Obviously, I haven’t had a lot of game time apart from the sevens since the Leinster game but, if I can play for Glasgow, then that will always be my priority and it is up to me to try and make as strong a case for myself as I can.
“There is a terrific buzz about the place with the results the boys have had in Europe and now we have Treviso coming here to Scotstoun in the final game before the international break and it is up to us to produce the best performance we can as a team.”
The former Edinburgh wing joined Glasgow on a loan deal last February and has played against the Italians at Scotstoun before, in a 29-10 victory back in April.
Despite Umberto Casellato’s side’s status as current Pro12 whipping boys, Jones believes Glasgow are in for a testing time tonight.
A Glasgow victory, combined with a home defeat for Ospreys against Connacht, without a losing bonus point, would be enough to put Glasgow top of the Pro12 table.
Having scored 14 tries in three meetings with Treviso this year already, despite sustaining five yellow cards in those games, the portents point to a home win for Gregor Townsend’s team.
Yet Jones kept a poker face, saying: “Going back to last season, I could see how strong Treviso were in the scrum and how physical they are and in the first game with them this season they gave us an awful lot of trouble with the intensity of their work.
“But, although they are renowned for the strength of their scrum, their driving mauls and their physicality, they are starting to throw the ball about from anywhere. They had a real go in the first game at the Stadio Monigo and, after a very competitive display against Racing Metro last week in the ERC [Champions] Cup, they will be looking for payback against us.
“So we must be at our most focused and make sure everything is done to the best of our ability.”
Only five of the Glasgow side which defeated Treviso 40-23 on 5 October play tonight, while there have been 12 personnel changes from the starting XV which claimed victory over Montpellier in last Saturday’s Pool Four European Rugby Champions Cup encounter – such is the effect of the Scotland international player requirement on Glasgow.
There is a clean sweep of changes in the back division which sees Peter Murchie in for Stuart Hogg at 15 while Jones joins DTH van der Merwe on the flanks.
Richie Vernon returns from an Achilles injury to partner former Munster man James Downey at centre in a reprise of their partnership for club side Currie in the BT Premiership last weekend.
Peter Horne has been released by Scotland after being called up as injury cover and takes the stand-off slot, while Fijian international Niko Matawalu replaces Henry Pyrgos at scrum-half.
The most noticeable change up front is the return of British & Irish Lions prop Ryan Grant at loosehead after shoulder surgery. Pat McArthur and Chris Fusaro have also been released by Scotland and start along with captain Josh Strauss.
Townsend believes that he has more than enough cover to cope with the Scotland player drain. He said: “You know it is going to be difficult but, at the same time, you know it is coming and that is why we have a squad of 43 and adding EDP’s [Elite Development Players] maybe up to 50.
“But we have a number of players who have come back from injury at a very opportune time with Ryan Grant, Ryan Wilson and Richie Vernon all starting their first games of the season for us.
“So you have players who now have a great opportunity and I believe we have a strong line-up out.”
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