Revitalised Scotland centre Huw Jones believes he is entering the biggest tournament of his life in the best form of his career.
The 29-year-old Glasgow back enjoyed an impressive start to his international career after making his debut in 2016 but agonisingly missed out on selection for the 2019 World Cup.
Jones then went almost two years without an appearance for Scotland between the March 2021 victory over France in Paris and the start of this year’s Six Nations as he lost his way amid fitness and form issues.
Since returning to the mix as a try-scorer in the victory over England at Twickenham in February, Jones has established himself as one of Scotland’s key men. He ended the Six Nations with four tries – two of them away to France – and was named in the team of the championship.
Having continued his magnificent form through the summer, the former Stormers and Harlequins man reckons he has come to the boil at the perfect time for what will be the pinnacle of his career.
“It’s been really enjoyable since coming back from injury last season to get the opportunity to play for both club and country,” he said. “I’ve had loads of chances (to play) and it’s been great.
“I’ve got on well with the guys around me so I’m really positive about how my game is. I think I’m a better player right now than I’ve ever been. Looking around at the squad, everyone in the squad is playing well so that’s a huge positive for us.”
Another of Jones’ in-form colleagues is his fellow Glasgow centre Sione Tuipulotu, who also made the Six Nations team of the championship.
The pair have formed a strong bond for club and country since Jones returned from injury last December and their chemistry at the heart of the backline promises to be a big asset for the Scots in France.
“I love playing with Sione,” said Jones. “He’s a great guy to have around, he brings loads of energy. I think we view the game the same way.
“With how we want to play and our attributes, we bounce off each other well. We’ve got a good connection on and off the field, which is great for us and good for the team.”
The current form of Jones, Tuipuloto and so many of their colleagues means the Scots – ranked fifth in the world – will kick off their tournament against world champions South Africa with genuine belief that they are equipped to pull off a victory.
“We’ve had the whole summer to build up and it’s nice to have the big one up first,” he said. “It’s a massive game. They’re world champions, they’re on form if you look at their last couple of games and they are a top side.
“It is a huge challenge for us, but it’s one we’re really excited about. With the game we want to play, we’re confident about it.
“It’s going to be hugely important not to lose focus in any moments. If we can put our game together and stay in the moment, hopefully that will be enough.”