JUST a week after Stuart Hogg agreed to join Exeter Chiefs next season, it has emerged that Huw Jones could also leave Glasgow in the summer. A report in England yesterday suggested that the 24-year-old centre, whose Warriors contract expires in the summer, is close to concluding a deal with Leicester Tigers.
Certainly, Glasgow Warriors coach Dave Rennie, who lost Finn Russell to Racing 92 in the close season and is himself out of contract at the end of this campaign, appears resigned to losing more big names over the coming months. “It’s a big year next year,” Rennie said. “It’s a World Cup year and there’s a lot of clubs in England and France with a fair bit of coin and it’s tempting. We’ve got to understand we can’t keep everyone, and if guys go, they go with our blessing. What ends up happening with Huw, I guess we’ll know in the next couple of weeks.”
Jones, who returned to the Scotland midfield against the Springboks after losing his place for the Fiji game, made his Warriors debut last December. He admitted recently that he had “never really felt that confident in a Glasgow shirt”.
A host of other Glasgow players in addition to the centre are also out of contract in the summer, with established internationals such as Tommy Seymour sure to attract interest from England and France. But at least the immediate future for Rennie is bright, as he expects to have some of his internationals released to him by Scotland for the resumption of the PRO14 campaign on Friday, when Glasgow play Cardiff at Scotstoun. “We’ve got about 20 or 21 training with them, so we’ll definitely get a few guys back,” Rennie added. “We’ll get clarity around that tomorrow.”
Recent performances have convinced the coach that his squad has increasing strength in depth in any case, with the result that he will go into the match at Scotstoun in a confident frame of mind no matter which Scotland players he has available.
Depth is key
“That’s the good thing about this time of year,” he continued. “It’s easy to complain, but we want as many guys playing for Scotland as we can. That’s helping us create really good depth and learn more about a number of these young fellows who have fronted really well. That augurs well for the future.
“Our performance against Munster and Ospreys without a number of players was top notch. We didn’t get a result in Munster – we should have, we played well enough to – but our thinking is if we can play with that intensity and accuracy you’re going to win more than you lose.
“We’re really happy. I think in the last month the intensity was excellent. We were pretty clinical with ball in hand. We got ourselves in a good spot. When you have a couple of weeks off you’ve got to make sure that you get back to where we finished, so I’m looking forward to getting back into things against Cardiff.”
Between the matchday 23 who were on duty against South Africa and those who have been training with the wider Scotland squad, around a score of Rennie’s players have been away from Scotstoun over the Autumn Internationals. The majority will remain with Gregor Townsend for Saturday’s final Test of the year against Argentina, while some other Warriors players remain on the injury list. But that list is shortening, with Ruaridh Jackson, for one, available again.
“Sam Johnson is going to be out for a while – he’s maybe six or eight weeks away still,” Rennie continued. “Zander Fagerson is not due back until February or March, but Tim Swinson is close to returning. And we’ve got a few bumps and bruises from other guys who are close. We’re not too bad off from an injury perspective – our medics and trainers have done a really good job of getting our boys back on the park.
“We’ve been going for three months pretty full on, so was a chance to freshen up for everyone. We gave the boys 10 days off – we came back last Thursday just to get a little bit of a head start on this week.
“We had a really good Thursday-Friday last week: we got some good work into the boys and got a bit of a head start on Cardiff around the analysis, so we’re probably a day or two ahead of where we’d normally be this time of the week. Attitude has been really good – the boys have come in and tested really well, a number of PBs, so mentally refreshed. It’s important with such a long season over here that you need to find windows to freshen guys up.”