HUW Jones has revealed that there were times earlier this season when he thought that leaving Glasgow could be for the best because he was “maybe in the wrong place”.
Apparently out of favour with head coach Dave Rennie and well short of the form he showed in 2018, the Warriors centre was frustrated by his lack of playing opportunities. Now, however, he is again convinced he is in the right place, at a club whose attacking instincts chime with his own attitude to the game. He was his team’s outstanding performer in their loss to Edinburgh last Saturday, and scored a try which highlighted the incisive ability that made him such a prized asset to both Glasgow and Scotland not so long ago.
So why is he back at or close to his best now? Jones has a simple answer to that. “This is the first time I’ve had three starts in a row for Glasgow, I think,” he explained. “As a player it’s hard to just come in for one week and play well and then you’re out the next – you can’t get any momentum. But I think once you get a couple of games in a row you can sort of build on them.
Catch up on our Scotland’s uncapped heroes series:
Scotland’s best uncapped team? PC Brown names his line-up
Scotland’s best uncapped team? Ian Barnes picks his side
Scotland’s best uncapped team? Alan Lorimer’s choice
Scotland’s best uncapped team? Barry Stewart’s selection
Scotland’s best uncapped team? Matt Vallance has his say
“Guys that play week in week out, you say ‘Oh, he’s massively consistent – he’s playing every week’. But you can’t be consistent if you’re not playing every week.”
Whether Jones does play against Benetton on Saturday depends not just on Rennie, but on the protocol that restricts the number of games some Scotland internationals get to play consecutively. If he were rested it would be a good sign in one sense, indicating that Gregor Townsend was thinking of recalling him for the Six Nations after omitting him from the World Cup squad. But if Jones were left to decide, he would be on that plane to Italy and getting ready to start a match which has taken on added importance for Glasgow in the race for a PRO14 play-off place.
“I don’t know what the protocol is – I think it’s four or five [games in a row],” he said. “I think if I get to that point I’ll be asking not to rest, because I don’t really need it, I’ve had plenty.”
If he had played in Japan, the 26-year-old might have been glad of a rest in the aftermath of the World Cup. Instead, his inactivity in the autumn was doubly galling, as after being left out of the Scotland squad he often found himself sidelined at the Warriors too. Rennie has explained that there is often a close call between Jones and Nick Grigg for the No 13 jersey, and that when Grigg is preferred, the spot on the bench tends to go not to Jones but to Kyle Steyn, who can also cover wing.
But while the preference for Grigg’s greater defensive solidity may be understandable at times, the frustration for Jones was that he was working hard in training on his defence but felt he was not being given the chance to show he had improved that side of his game. Hence those occasional feelings that it might be time to move on, despite being under contract at Scotstoun for one more season after this.
“At times I’ve thought about it,” he explained. “It’s been a tough year: I’ve had a couple of injuries, non-selection. I think at times I’ve thought maybe I’m in the wrong place.
“But not really. It’s a fleeting thought. Basically when you get dropped, five minutes afterwards you’re sulking about it, but you have to get on with your job. You’ve got to help the guys that are playing on the weekend and hopefully you get your chance if you’re training well.”
“We discussed it,” he continued, referring to his talks with Rennie. “I think at the beginning we obviously disagreed. I’ve said to him that I just want to be playing, and he obviously understands that it’s coming from the right place. And obviously now I am playing so I should have no complaints, but hopefully it stays like that.
“I think Dave has said there’s not much between me and [Grigg]. Every time he tells you that you’re not playing, he tells you what he wants you to work on. Often it’s frustrating, because you already are. All you can do is just keep working on it.
“I saw someone tweet something the other day, saying players will say ‘Play me and I’ll show you’ and coaches will say ‘Show me and I’ll play you’. It’s tough to get out of that when you’re not playing, but when you are playing you want to stay there as long as you can.”
Asked what had been the biggest factor in persuading him that he was at the right place, Jones pointed to the desire to prove those people wrong who thought he might never again recapture his best form from 18 months or so ago. “Yeah, I think I like to. I think I enjoy the guys that I’m playing with, I like the environment at Glasgow, but yeah, a lot of it is proving people wrong.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been massively out of form – just not playing. You could say that’s the same thing, but in my head you can only be out of form if you’re playing badly, not if you’re not playing.”
With Rennie set to move on at the end of the season, Jones will work with incoming head coach Danny Wilson in the final year of his current contract. The new coach, he admitted, is an unknown quantity at present.
“I’ve not spoken to Danny Wilson – he was obviously forwards coach. I’m not sure about his opinion on me, but I should probably find out pretty soon.”
Jones also said he has not spoken to Townsend recently, which means he has yet to receive any indication of his potential involvement in the Six Nations, now only a month away. All he can do is hope he keeps getting selected for Glasgow, and trust in his own ability, as he did in the 1872 Cup match against Edinburgh, where, he admitted, the hope of a Scotland recall had been in his mind.
“Yeah, I suppose it’s like an old-fashioned trial, isn’t it? You’re playing against guys who you’re competing with for that national spot. Yeah, obviously getting closer to the Six Nations I’m thinking about it – I want to be playing as much as I can to give myself the best chance of getting into that squad.”