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Jonny May: The Gloucester wing hails Eddie Jones' impact as England bid to retain Six Nations title

Create: 01/30/2017 - 00:00

After spending most of 2016 watching from afar, Gloucester and England winger Jonny May has unfinished business. The Swindon-born flyer returned from injury with a bang and, in what could be a big year for him personally, is feeling 'as good as new'...

When Jonny May suffered a season-ending knee injury against Harlequins at Twickenham in December 2015, it marked a devastating conclusion to what had been a difficult few months for the Swindon-born winger.
Having been part of the England World Cup squad who had made unwanted history by becoming the first hosts to be dumped out of their own tournament at the pool stages and with Gloucester struggling for form in the Aviva Premiership, May had already endured some crushing lows over the previous 12 months. The fact that the winger was to tear his anterior cruciate ligament playing at the same venue – Twickenham – where defeats to Wales and Australia had ended both his and England’s World Cup journey, only added insult to injury.

Yet just under a year later and May was back in action, and raring to go. Having made a try-scoring return from injury for Gloucester back in October in a 47-27 European Challenge Cup win at Bayonne, the winger backed that up with another score a week later in his first game back at Kingsholm against Treviso.

All of which was enough to persuade Eddie Jones to hand the man who first started out in rugby at Royal Wootton Bassett RFC a return to the England side during the autumn internationals, where he maintained his excellent run of form with two tries in three games as the Red Rose secured four wins out of four to complete 2016 unbeaten. While his comeback from injury did not allow him much time to get up to speed for the rigours of international Test rugby, May was satisfied with his return.
“I feel good at the moment,” he said during our chat at Gloucester's Hartpury training base.  “Obviously being out for ten months was very difficult for me, everything lately has gone very fast and returning to play rugby after such a long lay-off is tough but game-time is what I’ve needed to really push on with my recovery. I guess I was probably chucked in at the deep end only having a few games before returning for England, but in hindsight I think that was the best thing for me. 

“I obviously wasn’t in the best form or shape of my life coming into camp, but I found a way to get through it and perform, and I felt all the better for it after a five-week intense burst. I feel as good as new now and am ready to push on.”

With ex-head coach Stuart Lancaster having paid the price for England’s early World Cup exit, returning to the international fold also offered May the opportunity to get to know his Australian  successor. “Eddie Jones was awesome”, May said, excitedly. “He was really positive with me and gave me great confidence. The training was really hard but I needed that and it got me ready to play Test rugby pretty quickly, so it was a good experience.” Listening to May speak, it is clear he has enjoyed his experience of working with Jones for the first time, so did he notice much change from the previous regime?

“There’s always going to be differences when there is a complete change in management,” he said. The main differences were the clarity we had going into each week, and the intensity that we trained at. I really wouldn’t have thought it would be possible to train that hard with Test matches at the weekend but somehow we found a way to train at that intensity and I felt really good for it, to put all that hard work in and then recover for the weekend makes you feel sharp.”

Having enjoyed some good form in May’s absence through November, Gloucester are now looking up the Aviva Premiership table after a slow start to the campaign. The winger is keen to help maintain that positivity on his return to club duty. “As a team we just want to keep building,” he said. “We’re playing some good rugby and it’s obviously a bit of a challenge coming into a team when you have been out for so long but I’ll train as hard as I can and get stuck in and just rebuild those little relationships that you need, to bring out the best in one another.”

With a British and Irish Lions tour fast approaching, if May carries on with his rich vein of try-scoring form then he could well be on the plane New Zealand this summer. So, is he daring to dream?

“Going with the Lions would be an amazing experience, but there is a great deal of rugby to be played before then and my main focus is Gloucester and helping contribute to the team,” he said. “Scoring tries is obviously an important part of being a winger. It makes you feel confident, it makes you feel good about the way you’re playing and I’ve been pleased to be able to score so many, so soon. I’m given those opportunities or if I need to find opportunities to score, then that’s what I want to be doing. I just want to get better every week, keep working hard and improving. I’ve had a tough year I’ve worked so hard just to get back fit, I feel that my injury is definitely behind me now and I know my best days are ahead of me.”

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Jon Davies