Jones hails “brilliant” Tuipulotu as their fledgling midfield partnership flourishes

The Tuipulotu/Jones partnership means British and Irish Lion Chris Harris is having to settle for a place on the bench
©Rugby People

Sione Tuipulotu only has 12 caps for Scotland under his belt, but quickly the Glasgow Warriors centre has become a key man for Gregor Townsend’s team and a fans’ favourite.

The 25-year-old also has a big supporter in the shape of Huw Jones, perhaps unsurprisingly given the great understanding the duo have built up in recent months playing for their club side.

And, of course, their midfield partnership was at the forefront of Scotland’s 29-23 Guinness Six Nations round one triumph over England at Twickenham last weekend. Tuipulotu’s neat kick set Jones up for a first-half try, one of the highlights on a day of special moments for the visiting supporters.

The duo look set to be picked again at 12 and 13 on (Thursday) when the matchday 23 to take on Wales at BT Murrayfield on Saturday is named.

“Sione is a brilliant player,” Jones told TRU this week about the man who has Australian, Tongan and Italian family and qualifies for Scotland via his grandmother Jaqueline Anne Thomson.

"We’ve only had a few games together, but with the amount we’ve trained together at Glasgow and now with Scotland, well, you get to know a player pretty well when you’re alongside them every day.

“I think we know each other quite well. I think our skill sets help each other out. I think he’s brilliant, he’s a triple threat when he has the ball. He can run and beat defenders, he’s got a good passing game and he’s shown he’s got a good short-kicking game with some of his assists this season.

“It’s great playing outside of him. It really helps me pick my lines and run off him, so I think we’ve got a good partnership.

“And we connect well on the other side of the ball as well in defence. A lot of the time as centres we’re defending multiple options and he’s a good guy to have inside, he really helps you out.

“I do often forget how young he is, but he’s a great talker, he knows the game really well. He reads it well, he understands it and he’s good when we have meetings. He gets his point across well.

“Out on the field, he’s a good organiser. A key job for us is organising the forwards in front of us, but also chatting amongst us backs, organising attacks. That sort of stuff he’s really good at in high-pressure moments. To be able to make a call and then execute it, it’s something that he’s really good at.”

“I’m a confidence player,” says Jones

 Before last weekend’s Calcutta Cup glory, Jones had not played for his country since March 2021.

The now 29-year-old burst onto the scene in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and was scoring tries for fun at international level.

He was still involved with Scotland in 2019, but then missed out on selection for the Rugby World Cup in Japan and his career then stalled somewhat in the early part of the pandemic.

A move from Glasgow to Harlequins reignited things for Jones during the 2021/22 season and he would have been on Scotland’s tour last summer to Argentina if it wasn't for an injury.

That setback saw him miss the early part of the 2022/23 campaign as he returned to the Warriors, but now he is flying at Scotstoun under new head coach Franco Smith and he is translating that form into a Scotland shirt.

“I’m a confidence player,” the man who now has an impressive 13 tries in 32 caps for Scotland, said.

“When I’m confident, I feel good and that’s when I play my best rugby. I think since coming back from injury things have gone well. I’ve trained well, and that usually translates onto the pitch for me. If I have a good week of training, I’m generally better in the game.

“I’m trying to keep that up, but so far things have been going pretty well. At the beginning of my career, international games and the tries seemed to come quite easily and that obviously dropped off for a while so now when I do get the chance to play [for Scotland], I really cherish it.

“Getting over the try line is always special, but it’s even more special when you realise how lucky you are to be in this position and be able to help the team.”

“We’re not taking it lightly”: Jones on Wales challenge

Wales may have lost 34-10 to Ireland last weekend, but Scotland know the threat that Warren Gatland’s men will be bringing to Edinburgh.

The returning Welsh head coach has a brilliant record against the Scots while, in 2021 and 2022 at this same stage of the tournament, the men in red won the games between the two countries.

“We’ve not been caught up or fooled by the Wales scoreline versus Ireland,” Jones said.

“We know they’re a good side and they showed glimpses of that in that game. I thought they grew into the game, they were a lot better in the second half and we’ve seen from their defence that when they do get it right they bring a lot of line speed.

“They caught Ireland behind the gain line a lot, so that’s something we’ll be wary of and we know they’ve got a lot of threats across the team in attack.

“We’re not taking it lightly. We obviously have plans that we’ve been working on and it’s a big week for us. We want to back up a good performance with another one that’s hopefully even better.

“Historically we’ve had some big wins, but we’ve not always managed to back them up. We’ll get to the end of a championship and we’ll always be disappointed with how we’ve done and we’ll think we could have done a lot better with the guys we’ve got in the room.

“There was a massive emphasis from everyone [post-England] saying that we can’t have it again. We know we’re good enough to beat the teams in this competition and the main thing is stringing together good performances and being able to back things up and build some momentum.”