Saturday 17 March 2018

Jones calls on wing man May to start and finish

England v Italy, RTÉ/UTV, 3.0

Jonny May returns to England’s starting line-up. Photo: Reuters
Jonny May returns to England’s starting line-up. Photo: Reuters

Paul Rees

Jonny May is a starter Eddie Jones has told to be a finisher at Twickenham today, as England look to end the barren try-scoring record of their specialist wings against Italy in recent years.

While wings from the other four teams in the Six Nations have scored 16 tries in 12 matches against Italy since 2015, England's have managed one in their past five encounters, scored in Rome in 2014 by the player May has replaced, Jack Nowell, although Jonathan Joseph scored two after moving out wide from the centre in an injury reshuffle two years ago when full-back Mike Brown was concussed.

When the England coach was asked what he expected from May, Jones gave a one‑word answer: "Tries". The Gloucester wing has scored 10 in his 24 Tests, the last against Argentina in November, and while the champions are the only team in the tournament with a 100 per cent record, they left it late against France and Wales.

"I hope I get a couple of opportunities and my job is to finish them off," May says. "Eddie wants me to work hard, put pace on the ball, be decisive and score tries: I will try my best. Our focus is on getting better as individuals and as a team. The game against Italy is another opportunity to do that. We want to be the best team in the world and that is what we are going for every day.

"It is very tight for spots in the starting line-up and that makes us better. Eddie always pushes me hard and his attention to detail is second to none in terms of wanting me to be tighter, deeper, wider, flatter and faster. In this environment if you do not improve, you will get left behind. I had no idea I would be starting on Sunday. None of us did. When you have such good strength in depth, you have to focus on yourself."

England's reward for defeating Wales in Cardiff was not a few days off last week and a leisurely stroll in training when the players returned to camp, nor did Jones keep an unchanged team having said after Elliot Daly's late winning try at the Principality Stadium that his side had run out of get-out-of-jail-free cards.

"Previously a fallow week would be about resting, recovering and recharging," May says. "Last week we had two monstrous sessions, as hard as we have ever had. We have realised we can train harder than we thought and still recover. We finished the last two games well and it is because of how we push ourselves in training. We are finding ways of raising the bar and we are not putting a limit on it. As training gets tougher, our results get better. We are reaping the rewards."

When England's team was announced on Friday, those on the bench were listed as finishers, not replacements. Jones believes players who do not make the starting XV are less disappointed and more motivated if they are told that it is not a case of first and second choice but who is more suited to the start of a match and who is more adept in the final 25 minutes when games take on a different complexion.

"Being called a finisher gives you pride in that," says May, who started against France and was on the bench in Cardiff. "People want to be a part of this team. Eddie picks the team and he does not have to justify what he does. We all buy into it and we have seen this month that finishers are important. I am really pleased to be starting against Italy and intend to go hard from the first minute, get stuck in and give it my best."


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