Warriors wing Lee Jones has point to prove to Edinburgh

You have to feel a smidgen of sympathy for any poor player with the misfortune to play on the wing for Edinburgh Rugby during the three and a bit years that Alan Solomons was directing the traffic.

Glasgow Warriors' Lee Jones will be facing his former club Edinburgh on Boxing Day. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS/SRU
Glasgow Warriors' Lee Jones will be facing his former club Edinburgh on Boxing Day. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS/SRU

While an emphasis on the basics is understandable in a club that had lost its bearings, you have to think that the veteran South African was reading from the Naas Botha playbook when the modern game can been seen evolving before our very eyes season by season.

Three Scottish international wingers left the club on Solomons’ watch; Tim Visser joined Harlequins, Dougie Fife is thriving in the Scotland sevens squad and Selkirk’s favourite son Lee Jones has landed on his feet at Glasgow alongside fellow Borderers Stuart Hogg and Gregor Townsend.

Solomons has moved on but the speedy Scottish winger still has a point to prove to his erstwhile employers and, on Monday afternoon, Jones will get his chance to do just that with a first start against Edinburgh.

Lee Jones during his Edinburgh days. Picture:

“I was on the bench last year but this is the first one I’ve started,” says Jones.

“I was on the bench for both [of last season’s matches] and played 20 minutes in the first one at Murrayfield. So I’m really looking forward to having a crack.

“I’d imagine Edinburgh’s changed a lot since I was there. For me at the time it was a great move in hindsight, just in terms of the environment. I wasn’t enjoying the environment at Edinburgh as it was at the time. It was a great move for me to come through here, I think Edinburgh will have changed a lot since then so it’s hard to comment on what the difference might be. I’m just enjoying my rugby at Glasgow.

“We’d see them playing a bit more in terms of their backline attacking. Having had a look at that, they’ll put more emphasis on it.

Lee Jones during his Edinburgh days. Picture:

“Having played under Hodgy [Duncan Hodge] as a coach briefly at the tail end of my Edinburgh days and when he was with Scotland, he’s really focused on the details.

“I’ve not watched a lot of their games this season. That will be done this week. They’ve obviously got a lot of young guys in there that are doing well and coming through – it’s good to see them playing a bit more positive rugby. Last year I think the main thing was they defended really well. We struggled to score against them, particularly in the last half-hour, so they put in a really big defensive performance.

“We’d expect that from them again so we need to be able to play the game that’s in front of us and attack well as well.”

Jones won his four international caps in the 2012 Six Nations season but that was that. He has drifted down the international food chain since then, although that fact is more a reflection of the increased competition around the national squad than a statement about the Selkirk man.

Jones is a much more rounded player now than he was when he was capped. He has always had pace and a nose for the try line but his defence and his handling skills are both much improved.

The winger has had seven starts for Glasgow this season and, while he concedes that some of them may have come about through the absence of others, Jones’ confidence is high after back-to-back wins against Racing 92 in the Champions Cup and the winger is determined to grab the current opening with his trademark tenacity.

“It’s great to be in the mix and, having played two 80 minutes, in the last week, I feel really good for that,” he points out.

“Obviously at a European level as well. It’s perhaps come about because of injury but you have to be ready to take your chance so I’m really thankful to be playing and getting that opportunity the last two weeks and going into this week as well.”

Jones takes his place as part of a new-look back three for Glasgow, with Stuart Hogg at full-back and Fijian Junior Bulumakau making his first start of the season after ripping up the turf for Glasgow Hawks in the Premiership with seven tries to his name, three of which came in one 80-minute spell against Watsonians.

Elsewhere in the Glasgow team, Simone Favaro returns to the action after a brief spell on the sidlines and “Big Brian” Alainu’uese gets a rare start in the second row alongside Jonny Gray in the absence of Tim Swinson who, like Tommy Seymour and Gordy Reid, is rested.

Meanwhile, Jones will face off against Edinburgh’s Damien Hoyland on Monday, one of the young guns who have pushed him down the pecking order and the man who effectively replaced him at Edinburgh.

“Just before I left Edinburgh, he [Hoyland] was there training in parts,” the older man recalls.

“We played a few sevens tournaments together. He’s a good player, a great lad as well, I got on well with him so I’m looking forward to going up against him this weekend.

“Defensively he’s very sharp, strong on his feet, he’s strong in contact so it’s a great opportunity for me to go against him and show what I can do.”