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This much-loved Strictly star posted a tribute to Brendan Cole on the first day of 2018 rehearsals

This is lovely!

Fiona Ward

Strictly Come Dancing's Neil Jones has posted a sweet photograph to mark the first day of rehearsals for the show's 2018 series – but he hasn't forgotten the dance competition's recently axed stars. Sharing a shot of the professional cast on Instagram, he wrote: "Day 1 of @bbcstrictly rehearsals and it’s all started again. It was a pleasure to welcome the new pro dancers to the group but I will still miss @chloehewitt27 and @brendancoleinsta. COMMENT what you are most looking forward to seeing on the years Strictly…"

Neil posted a behind-the-scenes snap on Instagram

The post garnered hundreds of responses, with most of Neil's followers commenting that they hope to see him with a partner this year – since he's never actually competed on the main show with a celebrity contestant. "Come on, they’ve got to give you a partner this year. Would love to see you and Katya in competition," one fan wrote, while another added: "I really hope you get a partner this year, you deserve it."

MORE: Strictly Come Dancing 2018: huge news revealed about new series!

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Former fellow professional Chloe Hewitt also replied to thank Neil for his support, simply posting a heart emoji on the snap – with many of the show's loyal fans also adding how much they'll miss her and Brendan. "You guys back on my screen! Gonna miss the two guys, especially Chloe though!" one said.

READ MORE: Strictly's Brendan Cole finally opens up about his rumoured affair with Natasha Kaplinsky

Strictly viewers have long been calling for Neil to be given a celebrity partner, especially after he danced with Judy Murray in 2017's Christmas special. The ballroom and Latin star - who is husband to last year's winner Katya Jones - has become a favourite of the show's fans for his fun on-camera humour and incredible talent, but has only ever appeared in professional group dances on the main show.

Speaking to RadioTimes.com in June about whether 2018 would finally be his year, he said: "I still don’t know! Between a few of us we’re still not sure." It seems it all depends on which celebrities are cast for the next series - as they are matched to professionals based on things like height, according to Neil. "Of course Brendan left, and we didn’t want him to go, but he’s six foot something. I’m a lot smaller than him, so it now all depends on the celebrities. Because Brendan danced with Charlotte [Hawkins] last year and there’s no way I would’ve been able to dance with her because she’s taller than me."

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