Michael Jones FP “excited” ahead of the under-20 Six Nations

Posted on 03rd Feb 2022 in Stewart's Melville College, Sport, Competitions

(With thanks to Scottish Rugby/SNS for this photograph.)

As former pupils George Turner and Jamie Hodgson prepare for the Six Nations rugby tournament with the full Scotland squad, four talented youngsters, who attended Stewart’s Melville College, are working hard ahead of the under-20s version.

Loosehead prop Michael Jones is joined in the extended Scotland under-20 squad by hooker Duncan Hood, stand-off Christian Townsend and centre/winger Ben Evans for the showpiece event, on Friday night.

Jones and Townsend have been named to start in this game with Evans on the bench while Hood will likely get his opportunity later in the five-game campaign.

Last summer, Jones, Hood and Townsend all earned under-20 honours when the Six Nations was held behind closed doors, in Cardiff, due to the pandemic.

They all left school in 2020 while Evans left in 2021 and everyone involved in the wider school community is delighted to see they are all doing so well.

So, how did 19-year-old Jones’ rugby journey begin?

“My local club where I grew up in Midlothian was Lasswade, so I played there from P1 in the mini section right through to S4, when I was playing for the under-16s,” he explains.

“It is a real community club in Bonnyrigg and it was good to move through the different age-grades with a lot of my friends.

“As I got into senior school at Lasswade High School I was really enjoying my rugby and was set to travel with the Scotland under-16 Reds [the Blues also play] to a tournament in Wales, but unfortunately I got concussed the week before we were due to leave.

“That was disappointing at the time, but these things happen in rugby and I was lucky enough to go to Spain with the under-17s that summer for a training camp.

“I was then offered the chance to attend Stewart’s Melville for my final two years of school.

“It was a big decision for me to make but I thought it would help me from a rugby point of view, and academically, and I am really glad I decided to do it.

“I already knew Stuart Edwards, the Head of Rugby, from my under-16 training camps and I knew a few of the boys in the rugby team, so that made things a bit less daunting.”

When Jones was in S5, he broke into the school under-18s first XV as a back-row player and made an impact. At that stage he was starting to get involved with the Scottish Rugby Academy’s Edinburgh-arm which offered him extra training opportunities.

“Ahead of my S6 year there were a few discussions with coaches involved with the Academy and with Mr Edwards and Gregor Wood [Head of Sport and a former front-rower himself], about the possibility of me switching to play at loosehead prop.

“I was keen to give it a try, so I put in as much hard work as I could learning the position, but nothing beat actually getting game time under my belt there.

“We had a good school team that year and managed to get to BT Murrayfield where we beat George Watson’s College [24-14] to lift the Scottish Schools under-18 Cup.

“It was a great night.”

The winning team was led by captain Duncan Hood, and it was also a good one for him personally. Jones was named Player of the Match and he was presented with his award by Scotland caps Grant Gilchrist and Simon Berghan.

That was in December 2019, and by March 2020 Jones was part of the Scotland under-18 squad, preparing for a match with England in Hawick before the pandemic arrived.

The pandemic stopped everything in its tracks but Jones continued to be part of the Scottish Rugby Academy and also started a Sports Science degree at the University of Edinburgh. Then last summer he headed to Cardiff with the rest of the under-20s squad for the Six Nations all at the Arms Park.

“We didn’t manage to win a game, but we were quite a young squad and a lot of us, myself included, had not played in games of that intensity because we had effectively missed over a year through Covid,” he explains.

“At times in games we showed what we could do when we clicked and, as a front-rower, I enjoyed the challenge of going up against some players from the pro ranks.

“A lot of the players from last year’s squad are back this time, and we have a lot more rugby under our belts. We are also getting to play two games [the second is against France on Friday, February 25, at the DAM Health Stadium] at home in front of crowds, so we can’t wait for that.”

Since last year’s event, Jones has been a full-time Academy player with Edinburgh Rugby and also had some game time in the FOSROC Super6 2021 with Heriot’s Rugby and Boroughmuir Bears.

As a loosehead he could not really be in a better place than Edinburgh to learn from the likes of Scotland cap Pierre Schoeman, Boan Venter, Sam Grahamslaw and Harrison Courtney.

“Seeing how guys like Pierre operate on a day-to-day basis has really helped me learn a lot while he has been really helpful with tips and things like that,” Jones said.

“Now I just want to take all I have learnt into this under-20 Six Nations.”

Scotland under-20 v England under-20 is live on the BBC iPlayer and BBC website on Friday evening (8pm)

Article by Gary Heatly


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