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Harris wants Jones' midfield shirt

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'I wasn't aware. I knew there was something going on'

Ask Chris Harris for a reaction to fellow centre Huw Jones being ruled of the rest of Scotland’s Six Nations campaign and it’s breaking news to him.

He’d been training with Newcastle on Thursday morning ahead of Saturday’s Premiership trip to Bath and didn’t know the Scottish Rugby Union revealed in a lunchtime press release that the Glasgow midfielder had sustained knee ligament damage in the defeat to Ireland and would miss the remaining fixtures against France, Wales and England.

A try-scorer off the bench in the opening round win over Italy, Harris was deemed surplus to requirement against the Irish. Sean Maitland’s return to the starting line-up meant Blair Kinghorn, the hat-trick scorer versus the Azzurri who lost his spot, would take the No23 shirt from Harris.

However, with Jones now joining full-back Stuart Hogg in casualty ahead of Saturday week’s third round match against France and Kinghorn set to potentially step in at No15, the chances of Harris winning his eighth Test cap in Paris have hugely risen.

“I wasn’t aware (Jones was ruled out),” said Harris on Thursday afternoon. “I knew there was something going on. I knew he picked up a knock of some sorts, but I wasn’t aware of the situation. It’s not for me to think about it too much to be honest.

“There is always the opportunity there. It’s not just an opportunity for me, but for the other boys in there that are competing for that jersey. But ultimately you have got to go and perform at the weekend for your club to put you hand up and that is what I’m wanting to do. I just need need to concentrate on this weekend.”

The 28-year-old debuted off the bench in November 2017 against Samoa. He then quickly got his first start, chosen at centre alongside Jones for last year’s Six Nations opening day defeat away to Wales.

Harris admits he didn’t cope as well as he possibly could have when initially juggling international and club commitments, but he now feels he is more robust and better able to handle the pressures involved.

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“If you asked me last year I would have said I was more under pressure, but I have adapted to it now. It’s just part of the rugby career. It you’re part of international duty that is just the way it is. I have developed a lot since this time last year. I’m pretty comfortable in dealing with the situation.

“It was just the change of environment, the disappointment of not being selected for Scotland – which is still the case – but it’s just dealing with it better now.

“If you come back into the club and you’re still a bit down not being involved with Scotland, you have got to go and in a performance for Newcastle. It’s just a matter how you deal with it,” said Harris who returned to Newcastle on the Tuesday night before the Ireland match and featured in the club’s Premiership Cup defeat to Northampton on the same day as the Murrayfield Test.

A greater presence in attack is what Scotland coach Gregor Townsend is looking for from Harris. “Just a consistency thing. Just get my hands in the ball a bit more. Look at my attacking side of things. The defence side kind of looks after itself. Just getting my hands on the ball a bit more. That is what I did and I managed to score a try (against Italy).

“It was just running a supporting line. Josh Strauss just popped it to me. He probably could have scored himself, but he just popped it to me. It was a pretty incredible feeling to dot down.

“I just want to play as much as I can. I have played one of the two (Six Nations games) so far and if I can keep picking up appearances that would be grand.

“But I have just got to play well and be a bit more consistent. I’ll just concentrate on that and the rest will look after itself.

“I’m always looking to improve. There is always room for improvement in my game and I try to do that as much as possible. I am very happy with where I am. I think I have played well the last couple of game. I have just got to keep that consistency and keep improving.”

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'I wasn't aware. I knew there was something going on'