Monday 24 July 2017

Flying Scot Jones eager to continue his roundabout journey to top

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt identified Jones as this year's most likely bolter. Stock photo: PA
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt identified Jones as this year's most likely bolter. Stock photo: PA

Richard Bath

The syndrome is certainly more acute in Lions years, but before every Six Nations expectations grow around a new player or two of whom greatness is expected.

Few, though, have been talked up quite as comprehensively as Huw Jones, who makes his Six Nations debut tomorrow for Scotland against Ireland.

Just two starts into his Test career, the plaudits have rained down on the 23-year-old. Ireland coach Joe Schmidt identified him as this year's most likely bolter, while Scotland assistant coach Jason O'Halloran said he had never seen a centre with such a complete skill-set.

Jones, who announced himself with a brace of tries against Australia on his Murrayfield debut, has not taken the usual route to the team. He was born in Leith to Edinburgh University alumni Bill, who coached Scott Hastings at George Watson's College, and Hillary, but moved with the family to Kent at the age of two.

After being overlooked by every professional club in England despite starring for Millfield School, he went to South Africa in 2013 on a gap year.

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Within a year of joining his local club near Cape Town to play social rugby he was scoring against Orange Free State 11 minutes into his Western Province debut, and the next year he was playing Super Rugby for the Stormers.

So far, Jones' progress in a Scotland shirt has been just as dramatic.

Despite an injury-enforced lay-off since he won his last Scotland cap, during which he has been back in Cape Town to train with the Stormers, his relish for tomorrow is palpable.

"It has been quite a journey - I never thought it would happen so quickly," he said.

While virtually every other player on both sides knows each other well from the Pro12, Jones is an unfamiliar face.

"It could be an advantage that Ireland have not seen much of me play," he says.

Jones' combination with Alex Dunbar is a well-balanced unit for which head coach Vern Cotter has high hopes.

"Huw is an exciting player," he said. "It's good to have another player who can step and take the outside break. He complements Alex Dunbar, who takes the shorter lines over the gain line. We think it's a good mix."

There are two changes up front, where Fraser Brown's dynamism gets him a start in place of Ross Ford, while Josh Strauss starts at No 8 in place of John Barclay as Scotland muscle up to meet the physical challenge posed by Ireland's back row." (© Independent News Service)

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