Huw Jones relishing his return to centre stage after ending Scotland try drought
When Huw Jones tore past James Lowe, Hugo Keenan, Jamison Gibson-Park and Garry Ringrose to score Scotland’s second try against Ireland on Sunday it was a timely reminder of just how dangerous an attacker the centre can be.
Jones, on as a second-half substitute, showed plenty of strength and determination to force his way over.
The score sparked a fightback from Scotland who went on to haul themselves level having trailed 24-10. Unfortunately for the home side, Irish captain Johnny Sexton had the final say, kicking the decisive penalty with three minutes remaining to give the visitors a 27-24 win.
The result was the nail in the coffin for Scotland’s Six Nations title hopes but for Jones the match offered a sign of better times ahead in the midst of what has been a difficult campaign.
The Edinburgh-born player has found himself playing out of position at full-back for Glasgow Warriors for most of the season and it is only in recent weeks that he has been selected in his preferred role of outside centre.
The promotion of young full-back Ollie Smith into the Warriors first team finally freed Jones to return to the midfield in the games against Leinster and Zebre.
“I have been working hard this season,” Jones stressed after his first international try in over three years. “I have played a lot at 15. I only got my first game at 13 for Glasgow a couple of weeks ago.
“I am just doing the best I can with the opportunities I get and if my role in the [Scotland] squad is to come off the bench and try and make an impact then I have to try and take it.”
Jones made a stunning initial impression in international rugby, scoring 10 tries in his first 14 Scotland Tests, culminating with a brace in the Calcutta Cup win over England at Murrayfield in 2018.
Some lean times followed and Jones was overlooked for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Chris Harris has been Gregor Townsend’s preferred option at outside centre in recent seasons and Jones admits he has a tough job to dislodge the Gloucester man.
“Chris is ahead of me at 13 for the last year or so and he has been playing really good rugby so I have to keep up my performances when I get the chance to play at 13 for Glasgow,” he said. “If I come on for Scotland I have to just try and make the best impact I can.”
Jones will leave the Warriors at the end of the season and is expected to join French club Bayonne. He stressed that his international ambitions will remain as strong as ever if he moves abroad.
“I would love to stay in the picture for Scotland and continue to play,” he said. “As far as I know any move will not affect that but it is important for me to keep my performances to the highest possible levels so that when it comes around to select a squad I am in the picture.
“It is quite clear that my big strength is my attacking play and if I am firing and scoring tries that can only be good. For me to be playing my best I need to be attacking really well and creating.”