After being frozen out in recent weeks, Huw Jones will get a chance to show he has improved his defence when he returns to the Glasgow Warriors line-up for this evening’s Pro 14 game against Leinster.
The outside centre’s attacking ability has never been in doubt, but his defensive shortcomings have led Warriors coach Dave Rennie to opt for Nick Grigg instead, both over the past fortnight and previously. Now, though, Rennie has insisted that Jones still has a lot to offer the club, and that after working hard on his defence he deserves another opportunity.
“Huw’s well aware of the importance around his defensive game and the stretch he needs to make,” Rennie said after announcing a team which shows nine changes in personnel as well as several positional alterations from the line-up that began last week’s Champions Cup defeat in Exeter.
“He’s worked really hard on that. He did a lot of tackling during the week and he’s going really well. We want to see that consistently in game time.
“We’re confident that he’s got a better understanding of what’s required and he’s putting it into practice, so he gets his chance tomorrow. I think with ball in hand he’s been excellent. He’s got a reasonably good kicking game as well. And I’m confident that if he starts knocking people round defensively... He tackles fine, it’s just that we’re looking for a bit more dominance.” Jones’ recall comes a week after reports that he was unsettled and wanted to move back to the Stormers in South Africa. As he is under contract at Scotstoun until 2021, that appeared implausible, and Rennie insisted that the 25-year-old was very much part of his plans in this, his own last season with the team before he takes over as head coach of Australia.
“Absolutely, yeah,” he replied when asked if Jones had a future with the Warriors. “I thought Huw’s played pretty well this year. He featured in the first four or five games. We gave Nick Grigg a crack against Sale, he played really well, so we rewarded him with another start last week. But we’re keen to get Huw back into the mix – he’s a real threat with ball in hand and he’s a little bit different to Nick Grigg.”
Jonny Gray and Ali Price, pictured, are in the home team’s starting line-up for the first time since the World Cup, while several key players have been rested with the forthcoming double-headers against La Rochelle and Edinburgh in mind. Half-backs Adam Hastings and George Horne are among those to drop out, giving way to Pete Horne and Price respectively. In the pack, D’Arcy Rae begins at tighthead in place of Zander Fagerson, George Turner takes over at hooker from Fraser Brown and Aki Seiuli is in line to make his Warriors debut as a loosehead replacement.
With Callum Gibbons still out injured, Ryan Wilson retains the captaincy for the clash with the Conference A leaders, who have changed their entire line-up from the one that started their Champions Cup win in Lyon last week, promoting stalwarts such as Devin Toner and Jamison Gibson-Park from the bench and giving a start to some less experienced players.
Meanwhile, Ayrshire Bulls and Scotland loosehead prop Gordon Reid has signed a partnership agreement with the Warriors that should benefit Gregor Townsend’s national squad as well as Rennie’s.
The 32-year-old ended his first spell with Glasgow in the summer of 2017, joining London Irish, but returned to his native Ayrshire after the World Cup. Hooker Johnny Matthews, who originally joined from Boroughmuir on a three-month contract, has now had his deal extended until the end of the season.