Huw Jones knows Glasgow Warriors centre competition is fierce - 'they just don’t have a cool nickname'
The 29-year-old outside centre returned to the Scotstoun club last summer after a year playing in the Premiership with Harlequins, but a back injury meant he did not feature until early December. He certainly hit the ground running, scoring tries against Bath, Perpignan (in the Challenge Cup) and Stormers (in the URC) in his first three games back, to force his way into contention for Scotland’s Six Nations squad.
However, with Chris Harris firmly established during the last three years as a defensive bulwark in the dark blue No 13 jersey, it seemed unlikely that Jones would see much game-time during the championship. That was the theory, but head coach Gregor Townsend had other ideas, and he turned to the man who was Scotland’s most prolific try-gatherer between November 2016 and February 2018 – with 10 in 13 matches – as part of a rejuvenated attacking game-plan. Jones crossed the whitewash four times over the course of the campaign and was widely praised for his accomplished all-round performances as part of a formidable 12-13 partnership with his Warriors team-mate Sione Tuipulotu.
“I obviously really enjoyed the last two months being with Scotland and I had a nice rest last week, so now I am delighted to be back here and fighting for my place at Glasgow,” said Jones, after training with Warriors on Monday afternoon. “I’ve hardly played this season. Looking back, I’ve only played nine games so it’s not a lot of rugby. I missed the first couple of months, managed to get in and play four games for Glasgow, then I was away with Scotland, so I’m really grateful to have played all five games in the Six Nations because I wasn’t expecting it. That obviously went quite well but now I’m back here with Glasgow and have to focus on that. I’m just looking forward to getting stuck into training and hopefully getting a few more games under my belt.”
While Jones and Tuipulotu – a partnership which has been nicknamed ‘Huwipulotu’ – have been away on international duty, Sam Johnson and stand-in captain Stafford McDowall have hit a rich vein of form in the middle of the park for Warriors, so it is not going to be a case of the Scotland pair waltzing straight back into the starting XV. “The team has been going really well and the centres especially are in good form, so it’s a tough team to get into at the moment,” agreed Jones. “It maybe doesn’t come off the tongue in the same way, but Sam and Stafford are playing really well together as well – they just don’t have a cool nickname!
“Franco has been really good this season rotating the team – he wants everyone to be fresh but also ready to play with match fitness behind them – so there is going to be opportunities for people to play all season. Obviously, when you get to the back end of the campaign you don’t change the 23 as much, so it will get a bit more competitive. But we’re all good mates so we know how it is and whoever is playing we all get behind that guy, and you hope to get your shot next week.”
Warriors host Dragons in the round of 16 of the Challenge Cup on Saturday evening.