Jones has shown ruthless side to get me up to speed, reveals rocket man May
Winger puts try-scoring exploits down to coach with man-management skills as well as charisma
With respect to Luke Cowandickie – England’s leading try-scorer at this World Cup – the real threat to France is a lightning winger who says he is “ready to go off like a rocket at the weekend”.
Jonny May is the No1 try-scorer in Test rugby since 2018, but is currently deferring at the team hotel to a bearded hooker who would have become a trawlerman had the front row not lured him in. Cowan-dickie has three tries in as many matches but will probably find May passing his trawler in a speed boat.
May, who is built like a track and field star and runs like one, too, says: “I’m actually genuinely over the moon for Dickie. It feels like he can do what he wants here [in the hotel] when he’s scoring tries. He can walk around the place with a big grin on his face.
“He’s on top of the world at the minute. He’s a great guy to have around the squad. When he’s coming off the bench, I keep telling him he’s going to score and he keeps scoring.”
May finds himself saying to Cowan-dickie “keep doing that, mate” and “patting him on the head”.
But England’s No11 has his own stats to protect and Eddie Jones to thank, he says, for maximising the team’s chances in Japan.
“He’s not like a dad or a teacher,” May said in response to a questioner who used those words. “He just knows how to run a programme. He drives hard standards but he’s charismatic. He’s got a personality. He’s got a ruthlessness about him. He’s very different to anyone I’ve worked with.
“You guys will have spoken to him enough to know he’s a pretty one-off character. But we all have belief in the programme he’s running, with the experience he has. We wouldn’t want anyone else taking us through this journey that we’re on. He’s been there and he’s done it and we buy into everything he wants us to do.”
With 25 international tries, May is a precious commodity who credits England’s coach with understanding individual needs. “Eddie has pushed me, certainly. I have always pushed myself hard but he definitely has pushed me. As soon as you arrive at some point, he is on to the next thing that you’ve got to work on.
“There have been so many themes I’ve gone through with him, in terms of working off my wing, edge defence, high-ball work, back-three work – and then as soon as you’ve made progress with one, it’s on to another, or, ‘Do that even better’, or ‘Get faster’ or this or that.
“That’s the way he is and that, alongside being in a squad full of such talent, has definitely brought out the best in me and a lot of other people in the team.”
This outpouring of gratitude did not sound scripted. And though May is in the end a lone hunter, a finisher, he needs help.
“Eddie has managed me well. There are times I’ll get more, times I’ll get less. Eddie, to be fair, has a good understanding of what each individual needs. Manu [Tuilagi] for instance, they’ve certainly managed him, the way he’s moving and playing, he’s been managed differently. They’ve done a great job with me. Every time I’m out there on the pitch I’m ready to go ‘off ’ – and that’s exactly how I want to feel.”
He means “off ” like a rocket, not off the field for a rest. May wants to play against France, even though England are already through to the last eight: “Some games, I haven’t played, in the warm-up and against USA.
“Of course I’d rather be starting, but as soon as that decision is made – it’s like the referee, his decision
‘Eddie has a good understanding of individual players – on pitch I’m ready to go off every time’
has been made, get on with your job.”
May is a try junkie. “It’s a special feeling and for me it’s a release of something,” he says. “But it’s also just a moment in time and then it’s back to work. Of course, scoring for England, in a World Cup – any time you play for England is awesome, anytime you score for England is awesome. But there are also more important things.
“It’s not difficult for me getting up for England. You feel it building all week and at the moment I feel we have done so much training that you do feel ready to go off like a rocket at the weekend.”
The last time May faced France, in this year’s Six Nations, he scored a 29-minute hat-trick in a 44-8 win. “We came out all guns blazing in that game, and we got off to a great start and were pretty brutal,” he says. “France have made a lot of progress since we played them last and they’re playing some good rugby, so who knows what the game is going to be like.
“France want an unstructured game, they want to play offloads, they want to express themselves, they want to play fast and flat rugby, which they are very good at. We obviously want to try and contain that and stop them playing the way they want to play. But we also want to impose ourselves on France as well.”
May gave an insight into the intensity of England’s focus. Mark Wilson was 30 on Sunday but is unlikely to remember the party. “The chef makes a cake, we sing a song,” May says. “That’s pretty much what happens when it’s somebody’s birthday. Like I said, these things happen, but we’re so ‘on’ what we’re doing at the moment that we’re not going to make too many changes just because it’s a birthday. We notice these things and make a cake. That’s about it.”
Action man: England’s Jonny May on the charge against Argentina