Jones relishing Montpellier challenge
Looking at the TOP14 table, one of the first things that’s likely to strike you is Montpellier’s lowly position in the standings.
Sitting down in 11th position after 19 rounds is probably not what followers of the French outfit would have been expecting at the outset of the 2020/21 campaign, especially not with Jake White at the helm of a squad containing talent everywhere you look.
Yet it’s precisely because of that talent both on and off the pitch that Lee Jones is choosing to ignore the standings and focus on the challenge lying in wait this weekend. You know how the old saying goes – form may be temporary, but class is permanent.
“Montpellier had a rough start, but they’re definitely coming back to form now,” Jones told glasgowwarriors.org.
“They had a good win against Toulouse at the weekend so they’ll be full of confidence.
“Any time you come up against a French side you know what to expect – they’ve got a massive forward pack, so that’s a challenge in itself. The set-piece, too, will be key. Defensively they’ve been pretty strong – they’ll look to put us under pressure, and that’s where we need to play smart rugby.
“We’ll have to meet them in terms of physicality levels and be at our best when we come up against them on Friday night.”
It’s safe to say that most Glasgow supporters would be able to identify with their Montpellier counterparts, after a rollercoaster 2020/21 domestic campaign.
Just like Les Cistes, though, the Warriors come into the knockout match off the back of an impressive victory, after running in six tries to down Benetton at Scotstoun last Saturday afternoon
“In terms of the result, it was exactly what we were looking for,” said Jones.
“We got the try bonus-point, we scored 46 points and we really took the game to Benetton.
“We definitely let in a few tries we shouldn’t have conceded and on the whole there are a few things we need to tidy up, but I thought we made our possession count and really put them under pressure. Across the board it was really positive.”
With three wins from four across the month of March, the Warriors will be looking to transfer their domestic form onto the European stage under the Friday night lights in Montpellier. Whilst he might now be one of the ‘old-stagers’ in the Glasgow squad, Jones admits to feeling as young as ever in the company of the club’s up-and-coming talents.
“The energy of the young guys in the squad is infectious,” smiled the winger.
“They just wanted to get out and throw the dry ball around. That lifts everyone in the team, and Saturday was a great game to play in. The afternoon kick-off and playing on a dry day combined to make a huge difference. It’s not often you get that combination in Glasgow!
“To have George [Horne] coming back too was a massive lift – he was buzzing all week to get back on the pitch and you could see that in his performance. When he’s in that mood, that really drives everyone around him to bring that energy. It’s not often that they come together as perfectly as the try George scored on Saturday. Everyone ran their roles perfectly.
“Playing with tempo is also massive – that’s where we’ve been at our best in the past and it was great to see that on Saturday.”
So to Friday night, and the chance to make more history in a Glasgow jersey. Already a veteran of some of the club’s most famous European evenings – including the unforgettable 43-0 win over Leicester Tigers in 2017 – the carrot of a first-ever home European quarter-final is an incentive that Jones and his team-mates will be more than happy to chase come kick-off.
“Montpellier this weekend will be an obvious step up, but if we can take the positives from our attack against Benetton on into the rest of the season then we’re in a good place,” he said.
“It’s really exciting. We’ve only played one European game this season because of what happened with COVID after the Exeter game, and while you’d always rather be playing in the Heineken Champions Cup this competition gives us a real opportunity.
“We know that if we go to Montpellier and win, we’ve got a home quarter-final against either Benetton or Agen. We’re four matches away from a European final, which is a really exciting target for us.
“When you add in the return of the Scotland boys as well, that’s an extra boost in training this week – especially coming back after that fantastic win in Paris. It’s a new focus for everyone and it’s a really exciting time for all of us.”