Try machine Huw Jones is hoping to keep his free-scoring run rolling on when Scotland face Australia in the final autumn Test at BT Murrayfield on Saturday.
The 23-year-old centre has crossed the line in both internationals so far this month, against Samoa and a brilliant effort against the All Blacks at the weekend in the epic 22-17 loss, taking his strike rate to six tries in ten caps.
Jones has proved to be a magnificent find, lighting up the Test arena since Vern Cotter brought him into the Scotland set-up from South African Super Rugby side Stormers before last summer’s tour to Japan.
His current form wasn’t in doubt as he rounded off his time in Cape Town with a double for Western Province in the Currie Cup final before joining the autumn Test squad ahead of embarking on a new chapter with Glasgow Warriors.
Saturday’s try was a peach as he finished a fine move which involved Stuart Hogg’s perfect grubber kick and Tommy Seymour’s quicksilver hands.
“I love scoring tries, although none of them has been down to me – they’ve all been off the back of some really good team play, and a lot of the time it’s been about getting that last pass,” said Jones modestly yesterday. “But if I can get a try in every game I’d be very happy about that.”
The Edinburgh-born hot prospect has the ability to create opportunities for others too, setting up Sean Maitland for the crucial score against Argentina last November and so nearly putting Hogg in for a sensational match-levelling, possibly winning, try against the All Blacks in the last play of the game.
His smart inside pop sent the full-back haring through the world champions and brought the nation to its feet. It wasn’t to be alas, as Beauden Barrett made a last-ditch tackle. “I thought he was away,” said Jones. “Five more metres of pitch [on the left flank] and he would have got around there. That’s rugby. So close, agonisingly close but that’s the game.”
Jones now has the gold and green in his sights. He missed the summer win in Sydney through injury but has happy memories of the last time the Wallabies were in Edinburgh, scoring twice on his Murrayfield debut in what turned into a 23-22 defeat.
“It was a nice game and I managed to get two tries, but it was a tough loss at the end, so I was pretty disappointed,” he recalled. “I was really happy for the boys to beat them in the summer, but because I wasn’t involved this is my second chance to try to beat them.”
Jones is fully focused on the Aussies but admitted he is looking forward to getting going with Glasgow next month and making the most of his time playing with stand-off Finn Russell, pictured, after his confirmation that he will leave the club at the end of the season, with a move to Racing 92 widely expected.
“It’s up to him and as he said it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it’s a short career,” said the centre. “I don’t blame him at all. I am just looking forward to playing with him for the rest of this season and hopefully continuing to play for him in a Scotland shirt too.”
Jones shouldn’t need much bedding in at Scotstoun considering he has been playing with the Warriors’ first-choice backline for the past few weeks.
“I’ve come into this backline where they’ve all been playing together for a while and all gel quite nicely, so it’s been easier for one person to come in and gel with the rest of them,” he said. “If we’d all been from different places it would be more difficult, but the fact that we’ve got a full Glasgow backline means it’s quite nice for us.
“It’s a nice weapon for us that we’re going to be playing week in week out, with each other with Glasgow and hopefully when we come together for Scotland games. It’ll be nice for us to all gel together for the remainder of the season, and it’s always good to have those combinations.”
The fear is always that a big performance can be followed by a bit of a dip but Jones is part of a new breed of Scotland players who seem to be breaking the mould of previous foibles.
“It’s a mindset thing,” he said. “Barcs [skipper John Barclay] alluded to it after the game when he said that pretty much every team will have their best game against the All Blacks because they are No 1 in the world, but it’s getting into that mindset every game of wanting that intensity and level of performance, no matter what the opposition is. I think we’re getting there, it’s more about focusing on ourselves rather than the opposition. If we can get to that level every game then we should get some really good results.
“You can look at our first two games. Against Samoa we didn’t have our best game and while we didn’t underestimate them perhaps that’s because mentally we might not have been in our best place possible. But for the All Blacks, for most of us it would be the biggest game of our careers so far, and if you’re not going to be in the best headspace possible for that game then there’s something wrong with you. It’s replicating that and getting to the right frame of mind for every game.”