He was born in Edinburgh, given a Welsh-sounding name, raised in England and has spent the past four years in South Africa, but Huw Jones insisted yesterday there is only one country for him.
The newest recruit to the Scotland squad for the upcoming tour to Japan spoke to the media at BT Murrayfield yesterday and explained that any Welsh connection was distant and South Africa, for whom he qualifies on residency, has never been entertained. He may speak with a Western Cape-infused English accent but was keen to pledge allegiance to the land of his birth.
“I’ve always supported Scotland when watching the Six Nations growing up and had a Scottish flag hanging above my bed since I was 11 or so,” said the Stormers centre.
“I’ve still got the flag in Cape Town now. I wasn’t expecting to get the call at all but when I did it didn’t take long to make the decision.”
Jones is currently trying to shake off a foot strain as the squad prepares to fly out to the Far East tomorrow for a two-Test series on 18 and 25 June and explained his unusual path to being selected for international honours. “My Dad’s got Welsh descendants, my Mum’s more Scottish but they were both born in England,” he explained. “They both went to Edinburgh Uni and lived here for a few years, and I was born when they were here. My grandfather is Scottish, so I would of qualified anyway.”
Although Jones only lived in Edinburgh for two years, prior to moving to Lincoln and then Kent, the youngster is proud of his Scottish roots and explained his parent’s background whilst living in the Capital. “They were both teachers, Dad worked at George Watson’s and before that for a while at Loretto. His claim to fame is that he once coached Scott Hastings.”
Jones will certainly hope that his career hit the same heights as his dad’s famous pupil. However, it wasn’t until recently that playing rugby professionally became a viable option. After graduating from the famous Millfield School in Somerset, where former pupils include England’s Chris Robshaw and Mako Vunipola, the Scotland youngster decided to take a gap year in South Africa.
“I didn’t plan to play rugby in South Africa, I took a gap year at a prep school, just a year out because I was planning to go to Swansea Uni, to study history, but while I was there I got an opportunity to study at Uni in Cape Town, and play Varsity Cup rugby which is quite high profile, so I decided to go with that. I studied Italian, French, Psychology and Media the first year, and then halfway through second year I had to stop studying because I started playing with the Stormers.”
After bursting on to the Cape Town rugby scene in 2015, Jones made his Stormers debut against the Bulls in Pretoria, coming on as a replacement in the final minutes.
After living in South Africa for four years he could qualify to play for the Springboks, but to the 22-year-old, this was never an option.
“I would never support the Springboks let alone want to play for them. They know that, I’ve told them.”
Earlier in the week, the Scotland backs coach Jason O’Halloran suggested that it would be preferable if Jones could move to one of the Scottish pro teams. Jones accepts that the unusual scenario of playing for a southern hemisphere club and a northern nation brings complications with the different seasons, but hinted it may not be the easiest issue to resolve.
He explained: “I’m under contract until October next year. I don’t have a clause to get a release so if I was to come away it would have to be some very good negotiating, but I haven’t thought about that. I’d obviously consider it, but there’s no telling whether I’d go for it – it would depend on which club and the circumstances and all the rest of it.
“I haven’t had that conversation with [Jason] but I can see his point of view that it would help, but at the moment I’ve only just got involved and hoping to get my first cap. I’m still concentrating on club rugby with the Stormers.
“Super Rugby finishes at the beginning of August, then Currie Cup after that but I was released to this so I’m sure if I was picked again for the autumn Tests it wouldn’t be a problem.
“Six Nations next year? I suppose that’s another issue, but we’ll cross that bridge if it comes.”