HUW JONES believes the media and public have “made a meal” of the news that Finn Russell has left the Scotland Six Nations squad.

And he also insists that the players are not bothered by the saga, which saw Russell return to France last week ahead of the team’s opening fixture of the tournament, against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Russell’s late-night drinking session, and the fall-out from it, has certainly been well-covered over the past week. But the players have spent little energy thinking about Russell’s departure from the squad and are fully focused on putting in the kind of performance they will need to if they are to get closer to Ireland than they did at the World Cup last year, where the Irish inflicted a heavy 27-3 defeat on Gregor Townsend’s men

“I would say the media and the public are making more of a meal of the whole story than us to be honest,” Jones said of the Russell incident.

“If you ask the players, none of us are that really bothered. The focus is on us and the guys that are in the squad.

“It is obviously not great for the supporters. Finn is a fan favourite and all the supporters want to see him playing.

“From a personal point of view, he is a world-class player. For any team, when Finn is not there you will notice it and miss him.

“We as players cannot get hung up on that. That is something for the fans and the media to discuss. We can’t focus on that, we have to focus on the game, the guys who are actually in camp and the guys are playing.”

Townsend appears almost certain to select Adam Hastings to step in to fill Russell’s boots on Saturday and Jones being a teammate of Hastings at Glasgow Warriors, he knows the fly-half well and has every confidence that he is ready to step into the breach.

“Adam is a quality player, although he has not had a lot of games at international level,” said Jones.

“He has been in great form for Glasgow and has had a couple of really good games. This could be the opportunity that sets him off.

“He has made progress in the ten role this season - he is still the same silky player he was last season but he has added more to his game and has been brilliant this season and he is a pretty good defender as well. I think he has all the attributes he needs. With the team around him he can go very well.

“As soon as Finn left we got right behind Adam.”

Jones himself has something to prove this tournament. He has long been criticised for his poor defence and he missed the cut for Townsend’s World Cup squad last year which was, he admits, “s*it”. He has not been wholly impressive for Glasgow this season and was even linked with a move away from the club but recent weeks have seen him come into form, which saw him force his way into Townsend’s Six Nations plans, with the centre in contention to start in Dublin.

And so as disappointing as his omission from the World Cup was, Jones believes it actually helped improve his game although he is not entirely in agreement that his defence is quite as poor as some suggest it is.

“I was obviously really disappointed (to miss the World Cup),” the outside centre said.

“But since then I have put it behind me and I have moved on.

“There was a point about a month ago when I thought I wouldn’t be involved (in the Six Nations) and I was accepting of that. But I’m glad to be back.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been a bad defender. I think there have been times obviously when I have missed tackles in games. It happens to everyone and some of mine have been in open field where there is an easy run to the try line. That obviously looks pretty bad but the ones have been system errors where I have been left out in the cold.

“Me being left out of the World Cup was partly because they wanted to pick a defensively strong squad and maybe they didn’t see me as that. I haven’t played a lot of rugby in 2019 due to injuries. It was a combination of things. I’ve obviously worked a lot in my defence since then.

“Maybe a couple of seasons ago I was all about attack and maybe that’s why I didn’t get selected for the World Cup. Off the back of that I’ve become a more rounded player and hopefully that will stand me in good stead.”