Ten months have elapsed since Huw Jones signed for them, but Glasgow Warriors could pick no better moment to give a debut to a player with a proven ability to score against the very best than this weekend’s meeting with Montpellier in the European Champions Cup.
The centre has shot to prominence in the past 12 months after following up on a brace of tries against then world number three Australia with a similar haul against world number two England at Twickenham. A try in each of this year’s autumn Tests included one against the world number one All Blacks, before he registered another against Australia in taking his tally to seven in 11 in all.
By contrast Glasgow Warriors have been rampant this season, registering four try bonus points in all bar two of their 10 successive wins in the domestic Pro14, but when it came to Europe they were held to two tries per match by Exeter Chiefs and Leinster in suffering a brace of defeats that looks, in the eyes of most, to have left them all but arithmetically out of contention for a place in the knockout spots.
Jones, however, is not ‘most’ and having ended his long farewell to the South African game as a winner of the prestigious Currie Cup when his Western Province beat Natal in the final, he has earned the right to take the most optimistic of outlooks.
“It is by no means impossible,” he said of Glasgow’s prospects, then. “It will be tough, but we’re unbeaten in the league so far, so there’s no reason why we can’t do that again for the rest of our group games.”
Having signed for Glasgow back in February while still committed to remain in the country in which he grew up until the end of that Currie Cup campaign, Jones could only watch from afar as the European bid got off to such a disappointing start.
“I didn’t manage to catch their game against Exeter. From what I’ve heard it was close, but Exeter away is always tough – most of the Premiership sides lose down there as well,” he observed. “The one I was surprised by was Leinster, because I think we beat them at home a couple of weeks later, during the Autumn Tests. I was a little bit surprised by that, given that the form going into the European games had been really good – and still is in the league.”
Even that, though, only offers him an opportunity to seek encouragement as he points to the way the team responded to those setbacks.
“I think that gives us confidence as well that we can stay positive,” Jones suggested. “We’re still playing well, so we can go into this game with a positive mindset.”
Rarely can any newcomer to a club have had an easier transition than Jones has experienced this week since he has spent considerably more time with the more senior members of the squad of late than the rest of their clubmates. He also sees huge benefits in the international players returning to a group that has maintained high standards in their absence.
“Even the guys that didn’t play against New Zealand and Australia, those are the guys that have been performing so well week in, week out in the league. I think there’s just a really good collective confidence with this team,” he said.
That mood consequently overrides any concerns about the poor start to their European campaign.
“Two losses is not ideal, but I think this is just another game,” said Jones. “We don’t look at it as ‘We’re not performing in Europe’. It’s the same team that we’re putting out. We can go into it not thinking ‘It will be too tough for us’.”
On a personal level he is meanwhile looking forward to being able to claim that he really does belong to Glasgow.
“It’s great to finally be involved,” he said. “People have been considering me a Glasgow player for a while, but until I get my first game I won’t really believe it. It’s great to finally be here training with the guys.”