Huw Jones definitely has a future at Glasgow, according to assistant coach Petrus du Plessis, despite reports linking the centre with a return to South Africa.
Jones joined the Warriors from the Cape Town-based Stormers in 2017, by which time he had already made his Scotland debut.
He starred for Gregor Townsend’s side in both the 2017 and 2018 Six Nations Championship but failed to be included in the squad for this year’s World Cup and has also fallen out of favour at Glasgow, making just a handful of starts this season.
A susceptibility in defence has been the main reason given for the omission of Jones, who turns 26 next month. That side of his game is certainly not as strong as his attacking abilities, while it is a forte of Nick Grigg’s, the player who has been preferred at 13 in recent weeks. Kyle Steyn, meanwhile, has tended to get the nod as a replacement on the grounds that he is more versatile, being able to cover the wing as well as centre.
However, Du Plessis, who takes part in weekly team-selection meetings, insisted yesterday that Jones remains very much part of head coach Dave Rennie’s plans.
And, with a tough run of fixtures coming up, beginning with this Saturday’s Pro14 match against Leinster then double-headers against La Rochelle and Edinburgh in the Champions Cup and the 1872 Cup respectively, the 25-year-old appears sure to be given another chance soon rather than later.
“Look, I think that outside-centre spot is extremely tight between all the guys,” said Du Plessis.
“It’s small margins that make the difference. You sometimes also pick guys on who you’re playing, who’s your most physical defensive or attacking centre, that sort of thing, which fits in better with our gameplan.
“But no, he’s a great player. Because he hasn’t featured for a few weeks, I’m sure he’s going to do pretty well come the next block, the next six weeks.
“There’s a good rotational system. At some point, you each get that time. Dave Rennie’s very fair: you come in and you play well and you take your chance… Whether he was planning to play you for one week and you take your chance, there’s a good chance you’re going to start again.
“Like I said, the centre pairing is a tough position. So I would just say to him ‘Keep going’.”
Reports that Jones was keen to move back to Cape Town began in South Africa itself, and one of the reasons cited was his supposedly having fallen out with Rennie. But the head coach is leaving Glasgow at the end of this season to take charge of Australia and Jones is under contract until 2021 so, even if there had been a serious disagreement between the pair, the player could simply sit it out.
Du Plessis, who is South African, said he had not heard of those reports before. Asked if he would tell Jones that there is still a place for him at Scotstoun, he continued: “If I had to advise him? Definitely.
“I haven’t spoken to him on that level much with regards to him trying to look at going somewhere else. All I know is that his name has been thrown around every meeting and he’s part of the first team. If he didn’t play the last three or four weeks, he will be playing soon. So that’s the advice I can give him.”
It remains to be seen if Jones is in the starting line-up to face Leinster but one player who seems sure to feature is Jonny Gray. The lock has now completed his post-World-Cup recovery programme and his return is sure to be a major morale boost for the Warriors.
“Jonny’s up for selection from now on,” Du Plessis added. “Whenever he comes back he’s going to make a big impression. He’s been training with us and he’s a massive physical figure up front that we need.
“The last time we played Leinster [in May’s Pro14 final at Celtic Park] he made 43 tackles – I’ve not seen that in world rugby before. He’s physical, he’s dominant, and he’s a good lineout leader. So if he returns very, very soon it should be a massive plus point for us.”