LEE JONES is one of several shining examples of the wastefulness of the Alan Solomons era at Edinburgh. The diminutive winger had been a regular for the capital outfit for three seasons, playing 55 games and picking up four Scotland caps along the way, before suddenly finding himself surplus to requirements when the inflexible South African coach arrived in the Scottish capital at the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
Edinburgh’s loss was Glasgow Warriors’ gain, with Gregor Townsend recognising a very useful squad player when he saw one, and inviting the Borderer to join the success story at Scotstoun – initially on a loan towards the end of the campaign, before he signed a year long dual contract with the the Warriors and the Scotland 7s squad in the summer of 2014. The following summer he was handed a two year deal with the Warriors.
Up to the end of last season, Jones had played 55 games for his new club [exactly the same number as he managed in his his time at Edinburgh] and was part of the Guinness PRO12 winning squad of 2015.
He has rarely been first choice when all players are fit, but has been a highly capable deputy whenever called upon. He has also played several tournaments for the Scotland 7s team, including their 2014 Commonwealth Games campaign, proving himself to be a valuable professional in the Scottish performance set-up and making a mockery of Solomons’ snap judgement all those years ago.
Jones’ perseverance was awarded with a fifth Scotland cap – more than five years after his last one – in this summer’s historic victory over Australia, and given that he also signed a new two-year deal with the club in March, the 29-year-old was perfectly within his rights to look optimistically towards the future.
But, given the way he was summarily discarded by Edinburgh, it was also only natural for there to be a degree of trepidation about his face no longer fitting once incoming head coach Dave Rennie finally landed in the country from New Zealand towards the end of the summer – so, he is understandably delighted that he has been selected to play the full 80 minutes in both competitive matches so far this season, and even managed to pick up a try on a treacherous trip to rain-lashed Connacht two weeks ago.
“In a way, it’s the same for everybody. Dave has obviously watched a lot of our rugby over the last year so he’s got an idea of the players. He will have been told a lot as well. But there’s nothing like him seeing you play and train first hand and making his judgements on that. For everyone it’s important to try and impress,” he said.
“Last season was really positive for me. It was great to get on tour at the end of it and it has been great to get a run in the first couple of games. It’s been good to get more consistent game time and perform well, and hopefully that will continue.”
When everybody is fit and available, Jones must compete against established internationalists Tommy Seymour, Leila Masaga, Leonardo Sarto, Rory Hughes and Niko Matawalu, plus promising youngsters Robbie Nairn and Sam Yawayawa, for a regular starting slot. He is going to have his work cut out, but the early indications are that –unlike with Edinburgh four years ago – he is at least going to be given a fair crack at the whip.