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'I wasn’t expecting it': Former Stormer finds another gear

SPOTLIGHT: Huw Jones believes he is better equipped to deal with the complexities of the No.13 channel as he revives his international career with Scotland.

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The 29-year-old was an eye-catching selection ahead of Chris Harris for Scotland’s Six Nations opener against England, but it turned into a fruitful one as Jones played a key role in a 29-23 win at Twickenham.

Jones, who represented Western Province and the Stormers in South Africa between 2014 and 2017, looked lethal on attack and he scored a try for Scotland in what was his first appearance for the national team in two years.

While his attacking game was on point, there was also a spotlight on his defensive game in London.

After making his debut for Scotland back in 2016, Jones developed a reputation as a poor defender in that No.13 channel and fell out of favour with head coach Gregor Townsend.

However, over the last few seasons, especially in the current United Rugby Championship (URC) season with Glasgow Warriors, Jones has added some defensive solidity to his game and he came up with the goods against England as well.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Jones told The Herald (Scotland), referring to his selection instead of Harris.

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“I was really excited but nervous as well. He’s a fantastic player and in the camp he’s been a big help to me.

“He wasn’t negative at all about the selection. He’s there and helping us out. And he’s still a defensive leader in those leadership groups and still taking charge of that.

“But I was excited to be selected. Over the past couple of seasons that [defence] is an area of my game that’s really improved and I felt ready to take on that challenge on the international stage. I felt a lot more prepared than I maybe was a few years ago.

“I was aware that at international level my defence needed to be better. We have a really good defensive system under [Scotland assistant coach] Steve Tandy which makes it a lot easier to defend. Everyone’s on the same page.

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“Thirteen is a hard channel to defend in and you can be put under a lot of pressure and almost hung out to dry at times. But with the team we’ve got and the trust we have in our defensive system that happens a lot less.

“At Glasgow our defensive shape is similar to here. I feel better prepared to deal with any situation than I maybe was a few years ago.”

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Jones believes some of the criticism directed at him in the past was unfair due to the fact that prolific try-scorers often get labelled as poor defenders.

“I think there is an element of that. I like the quote, ‘You’re never as good as they say you are and you’re never as bad as they say you are’.

“A lot was made of my weaknesses in defence and some of it was pretty harsh and not quite accurate.

“I have missed some tackles, but so has everyone. Some of the tackles I missed led to tries and that really sucks, but that is just the nature of being an outside back sometimes. That’s where the space is.

“I can improve every area of my game. It did hurt me that my defence was a big focal point for a number of years. I wanted to improve that and I knew it was an area where I needed to get better, but some of the criticism in the last couple of years has been lazy as I’ve been branded as a poor defender, when recently my defence has been good.

“I hope that stigma is now changing as I’m putting in good defensive performances. Hopefully, I can put in another one on the weekend.”

Source: The Herald (Scotland)

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