In an interview with England Rugby, the Leicester speedster spoke of his time spent training at the Michael Johnson Performance centre this summer, in which he worked alongside American sprinter English Gardner and a handful of NFL players.
“I like the training there,” May said, “it’s perfect for what I want to do – I had a good couple of weeks there and I came back feeling good,” he added.
“The primary focus is on speed training, lots of agility, plyometrics, acceleration, top-end speed; America don’t mess around with sports.”
“I want to get smarter and I want to get faster and that is the product of years of working,” he said. “You spend your whole career working and every week looking at bits about how you can get better here or there.
“The end goal, and end product, is hopefully putting it out there at the weekend and playing some good rugby. I feel like over time I’ve gradually been getting better and I was playing my best rugby I think I’ve ever played out in South Africa.”
May was a standout performer during England’s three-Test summer series against the Springboks, in which he took his score rate to 17 tries in 37-caps. The primary asset within May’s arsenal is an uncompromising level of speed, scoring two tries against Wales during the Six Nations and one in the final South African Test in June by making up an obscene volume of metres to reach the ball before any other following kicks around halfway by Owen Farrell and Danny Cipriani.
However, for the copious levels of pace the former Gloucester man brings to England’s attacking ordinance there are a number of areas his competitors offer slightly more well-rounded skill sets; skill sets that Jones has shown favour in his determination to develop his team into a side that can win the next World Cup.
Elliot Daly may have been shifted to fullback and likely out of direct competition for May – as it stands – but currently injured Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell threaten to dethrone May from a coveted wing spot. While the difference between May and Watson at top end speed may be negligible, the latter of the two outside backs possesses a mean stepping game and experience at fullback, offering an added dimension that could prove vital when breaking down the best defences in the world such as Ireland and the All Blacks. Nowell, who not only possesses time at fullback but a genuine option at outside centre, has a level of physicality, never-say-die attitude in heavy traffic and breakdown work that appeals to Jones, with Mike Brown crowbarred onto the wing in South Africa to this effect.
Other competitors such as Denny Solomona and Nathan Earle may be well in the distance of May’s rearview mirror, but Watson and Nowell will prove a headache for May when fully fit. A horses for courses selection policy may force Jones’ final selection during the Six Nations - when Watson returns from his achilles tendon surgery – leaving May in a far less convincing position than he currently finds himself in.
Although, while May cannot compete with Nowell and Watson in their specialist areas at current, the 28-year-old has shown an exceptional level of growth within his game since his debut in 2013. When May first became a mayday regular under former England boss, Stuart Lancaster, half of May’s running metres came East to West instead of North to South and defensive mistakes and unforced errors more common than not.
With the pressure mounting as the 2019 Rugby World Cup continues its inevitable crescendo, do not be surprised to see May continue to develop his game behind a muscular looking Leicester pack this year; something he must endeavour towards if he is to truly continue his run of starts wearing the rose.
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