FOR Huw Jones, the importance of Glasgow Warriors clash today with Leinster in the Pro14 cannot be overstated.

The centre has fallen out of favour with head coach, Dave Rennie, and after missing out on Scotland’s World Cup squad, has made just three starts and three appearance off the bench this season for Warriors, despite his fellow midfielders Peter Horne and Sam Johnson being on international duty.

Nick Grigg has been Rennie’s favoured option and after Jones was omitted entirely from both the match-day squads for the European Champions Cup ties over the past couple of weeks, it was something of a surprise to see him being given the nod to start against Leinster at Scotstoun.

This game is of vital importance to Glasgow, with Leinster leading their Pro14 conference, and the Warriors lagging behind in fourth place.

But Rennie has few reservations about throwing Jones into the starting line-up.

“I think Huw’s played pretty well this year,” the New Zealander said.

“He featured in the first four or five games. We’ve always had good depth in midfield, so everyone’s got to scrap for a starting jersey. We gave Nick Grigg a crack against Sale, he played really well, so we rewarded him with another start last week.

“But we’re keen to get Huw back into the mix - he’s a real threat with ball in hand and he’s a little bit different to Nick Grigg.”

Rennie has been critical in the past of Jones’ defensive abilities, and there is little doubt Glasgow’s defence will be tested against Leinster, but the head coach is confident that Jones has worked on his frailties and will not be exposed by the Irish.

“Huw’s well aware of the importance we think around his defensive game and the stretch he needs to make. He’s worked really hard on that,” Rennie said.

“He did a lot of tackling during the week and he’s going really well. We want to see that consistently in game time. It’s a real strength of Nick Grigg’s game. We’re confident that he (Huw) has got a better understanding of what’s required and he’s putting it into practice. We need to see it against Leinster.

“So he gets his chance. I think with ball in hand he’s been excellent.

“Huw’s pace is extreme, which is great from our point of view. He’s got a reasonably good kicking game as well. And I’m confident that if he starts knocking people round defensively – he tackles fine, it’s just that we’re looking for a bit more dominance and that’s what we’re looking to see more of that.”

Also back in the line-up is Jonny Gray, who was afforded an extended break following his World Cup exploits. His extended break is over now though and Rennie admits he is delighted to see the big lock back and available for selection again, while Warriors have another boost with Ali Price also making his first start of the season for the club.

“With Scott (Cummings) not playing this week (due to a knee injury), Jonny coming back in is a hell of a replacement,” said Rennie.

“He had a very good break. He didn’t play a lot of footy prior to the World Cup, about 40 minutes. So he’s in a good frame of mind. He’s had a good bit of time away and he’s come back in the last couple of weeks and he’s been working hard.

“It’s great to have Jonny here and Ali (Price) likewise - he had a disappointing injury at the World Cup, he got operated on and he’s been working hard.

“He had a couple of cameos off the bench the last couple of weeks and he’s really looking forward to it.”

In total, Rennie has made eleven changes to his squad for the visit of the defending champions, and he admitted these changes reflect the need to rest some of his big names ahead of some important games in the coming weeks in the Champions Cup and Pro14.

“We’ve got to rotate and rest some of our international boys - guys like George Horne and Adam Ashe have had four in a row, and I think Fraser Brown and guys like Scott Cummings and so on have had three,” he said.

“We need to refresh them and get them back to zero so they’re all available for La Rochelle and for Edinburgh following that.

“Obviously there’s a couple of injuries from last week. But we’ve got good depth and there’s an opportunity for guys to apply pressure for selection for Europe next week.”