After a ten-month layoff with a knee injury, Jonny May is fit again and ready to answer England’s SOS. We talk Eddie Jones, the England backline and that try against the All Blacks.
Chances are, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Jonny May is his pace. There can’t be many wingers in the world who would outsprint this unassuming Swindon-born lad. And he wants to keep it that way.
Far from resting on his laurels during his recovery, May flew out to Texas to work with Olympic champion and former double world record holder Michael Johnson. The aim: to improve his running.
“When I had my surgery in January I knew I was going to be out for a long time and thought I’d want to break my rehab up and go somewhere different and learn new things.
“I’d heard about his camp in Texas and he’d been to visit Pennyhill Park a couple of years before. This was something I’d always been interested in doing and this was going to my opportunity to go and try it.
“We worked on speed, acceleration, changes of direction – all things that are very important to me. It was great for me to have that to work towards and motivate me.”
Now with three games for Gloucester under his belt and two tries, May’s return to fitness could not come at a better time for England head coach Eddie Jones.
Without Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell unavailable through injury, May is an almost certain starter on the left wing for South Africa on 11 November.
After so long on the sidelines having to watch his colleagues rebuild English rugby after the wreckage of the World Cup, May is eager to make up the lost time and repay the Australian’s faith.
“Every now and again he’d drop me a message or give me a phone call to check on how I was. It was hugely motivating for me to know that even though I’ve been injured for a long time, I’m still in his thoughts.”
May made his England debut in a bygone era, when Stuart Lancaster was reshaping the culture of English rugby. Now, under Eddie Jones, the arc of the backline has changed significantly, and in ways that will only aid May’s cause.
Out is the reliable but unadventurous Brad Barritt at inside centre, and in is Owen Farrell – a perfect second violin to George Ford. May is suitably enthused:
“With George and Owen you’re going to get two good decision-makers, two great passers of the ball and hopefully they can take it to the line, create space and bring you into the game.”
And what of the winger’s role in the new backline?
“I hope I can bring a game that’s got good core basics like kick-chase, defence and on top of that bring my game, which is adding pace, beat defenders and make something happen.”
We also got the chance to discuss that try against New Zealand in 2014, when he roasted Conrad Smith on the outside.
It was the moment that May introduced himself to the international audience and I’m surprised to learn that it wasn’t a training ground idea to try and get May to run at the ageing Smith.
“It wasn’t anything pre-called, but I managed to work myself of my wing to try and get my hands on the ball, which is something that’s important to me, and managed to get a bit of space on the outside and had the confidence to go for it.”
Typically humble. It was certainly a key moment for May in an England shirt. Questions were being asked after a try-less Six Nations, but it came at the right time for the Gloucester man to cement his place in Lancaster’s team.
“It was a big thing for me because I probably hadn’t established myself at international level at that point. I needed to do something to show that I could do what I do for Gloucester, for England. It came at the right time.”
This is May, a grounded sportsman focused on working hard to improve his game and bring success to England.
He has a great opportunity with four matches against southern hemisphere opposition this autumn. You can be sure he’s doing his best to take it.
Daniel Rey, Pundit Arena
Jonny May was speaking on behalf of Mitsubishi Motors, Official Performance Partner of England Rugby. Mitsubishi Motors is using Intelligent Motion to challenge the team ahead of the Old Mutual Wealth Series through innovative Performance Tests.
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