Ford: I was Jonny’s flatmate. Now I am carer and life coach
Coach Jones is ready to partner two club-mates with a rare chemistry – both on and off the field
The odd couple off the field, the right-on-the-money couple on the field, George Ford and Jonny May have worked wonders in tandem for their new club, Leicester.
Ford, the fly-half, has set in motion a Tigers back-line that has reaped riches for the fast-moving wing May, who has scored 10 tries in his first nine games for the club. A reunion in England colours is in the offing at Twickenham on Saturday after May recovered from the hamstring strain that ruled him out of last weekend’s game against Argentina and was retained in the 25-man squad to take on Australia.
The pair are an unlikely alliance: Ford, the meticulous one, hyperprepared, spotless-kit obsessive, all groomed and ordered, while May has always been something of a space cadet, other-worldly, a onetime chum of pop star Ed Sheeran, who had guitar lessons from May’s mum, a troubadour, a personality who seems wrapped up in his own world, paving his own way in life as he does to the try-line, often flouting convention with his mazy, unpredictable running. But he is fast, faster than any in England and probably without peer in the global stakes on speed alone. Even Eddie Jones struggles to pin him down, remarking on Monday that he constantly tries to make May aware of just how good he can be.
“I tell him every day, mate,” said the England head coach. “It goes in one ear and out the other.”
Yet, somehow, May has thrived within his own bubble, his faraway air belying his own zealous commitment to becoming an established international wing.
May works his socks off. Hence the move to Leicester, to further those ambitions. It has paid off, with his record early-season try haul as well as the recent setting of a personal best in training for speed tests.
Ford has been witness to the blossoming of May’s talent in Leicester colours, initially providing a room for his new team-mate. The lodging arrangement was not a perfect fit, May inadvertently ruining a new suede rug that Ford had purchased for the home he shares with his girlfriend when he brought home a takeaway meal that leaked through the packaging. “Jonny is high maintenance, a nice guy but I had to kick him out after three weeks or our friendship would have deteriorated,” said Ford. “It took the lads at Leicester a while to work him out because he can come across as quite strange at first. If you spend all day with him at training you just want to come home and chill out. But Jonny is non-stop. He knows how to wind people up. He used to come home and go straight into the lounge and lie on the sofa as if it was his, get the TV remote and that would annoy me straight away. He is a mate but he would just take it a step too far.”
May did do the decent thing and bought a new rug. The departure from Gloucester was a wrench for a player who had come through the academy there. The 27-year-old, though, upped sticks, a transition that was not without its difficulties. Ford used to give May a lift into training but would leave by himself on the pre-match Friday training