THE omission of Finn Russell from the Scotland squad may continue to dominate the build-up to the Six Nations at home, but according to Huw Jones it is far from being a constant topic of conversation in Valencia, where the players have been based since Sunday. Instead, the Glasgow Warriors centre insisted, they have been able to concentrate fully on their preparations for Saturday’s opening match of the Championship against Ireland, in particular by being wholly supportive of Russell’s deputy, Adam Hastings.
“I would say the media and the public are making more of a meal of the whole story than us, to be honest,” Jones said earlier today (Tuesday). “If you ask the players, none of us are really that bothered. The focus is on us and the guys that are in the squad. As soon as Finn left we all just got behind Adam and we focused on the weekend.”
Asked if he could understand why supporters, journalists and others saw the Russell story as an important one, Jones expanded on those remarks, and accepted that Scotland fans in particular had a right to be concerned about the loss of the playmaker. But he also mounted a strong defence of Hastings, saying he was confident that his Warriors team-mate would make the most of his chance in Dublin.
“It’s obviously not great for the supporters: Finn is a fan favourite and all the supporters want to see him playing. He’s a world-class player. For any team, when Finn’s not there you’ll notice it and miss him.
“What I was saying was that we as players cannot get hung up on that. That’s something for the fans and the media to discuss. For us, we can’t focus on that, we have to focus on the game – the guys who are actually in camp and the guys who are playing.
“Adam has been going really well this week. As a squad we’re all behind him and I think he’s going to go really well.
“He’s a quality player and he’s not had a lot of games at international level,” Jones continued – Saturday will in fact be Hastings’ 17th cap, and his ninth start. “He has that start against Russia at the World Cup when he went very well, but this can be a great opportunity for him. He’s been in great form for Glasgow and has had a couple of really good games. This could be the opportunity that sets him off.
“He’s made progress in the 10 role this season and won young player of the year for the PRO14 last season. Off the back of that he has matured a lot and his game management is still as good. He’s still the same silky player he was last season, but he’s added more to his game and has been brilliant this season – and he’s a pretty good defender as well. I think he has all the attributes he needs. With the team around him he can go very well.”Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 27)
Jones himself appears just as confident that he too can ‘go very well’ following a good run of games for Glasgow, and is particularly pleased with the defensive qualities he has shown in his recent outings – even if he thinks that side of his game has been unduly maligned. “I don’t think I’ve ever been a bad defender,” he explained. “There have been times, obviously, when I’ve missed tackles in games. It happens to everyone and some of mine have been in open field where there’s an easy run to the try line. That obviously looks pretty bad. But other ones have been system errors where I’ve been left out in the cold.
“Getting cut from the World Cup squad was pretty shit. I was obviously really disappointed about that. But since then I’ve put it behind me and moved on.
“To be honest, I’m really chuffed to have the opportunity to be back in Scotland camp. There was a point about a month ago when I thought I wouldn’t be involved and I was accepting of that. But I’m glad to be back. Looking at the weekend, I think I just want to enjoy being out there.
“Me being left out of the World Cup was partly because they wanted to pick a defensively strong squad and maybe they didn’t see me as that. Maybe a couple of seasons ago I was all about attack and maybe that’s why I didn’t get selected for the World Cup. Off the back of that I’ve become a more rounded player and hopefully that will see me in good stead and I’d like to stay in the jersey for as long as I can.”