2015 was a year Jonny May is unlikely to forget in a hurry. He helped Gloucester Rugby win the European Challenge Cup, he finished his Sports Management degree, played for England in the World Cup and got engaged to his long time girl friend Sophie.
The wedding is planned for 2017, but May has plenty to get his teeth into before that once he is fit again, as 2016 could hardly have started more painfully. May will require surgery on a knee injury picked up in Gloucester’s first match of the year against Harlequins at Twickenham.
At the time of writing, the extent of the injury is still unclear. May, however, is confident Gloucester can push on without him, at least for the moment.
“The potential at Gloucester is humungous” said May when I met up with him. “We haven’t done amazingly this season and there is a sense of frustration that we haven’t performed as well as we can but we’re still in the fight. Take a breath and give us a chance.”
May talks as fast as he runs – his best time for the 100 metres is 10.7 seconds – and it’s that pace which took him upwards from his club rugby with Gloucester into the international arena. He now has 19 England caps, but with the arrival of Eddie Jones as successor to Stuart Lancaster, he admits it’s a new era.
“It’s always sad when it doesn’t work out for someone like Stuart who is such a good guy” added May. “He gave it everything and was a great bloke, but sport is cut throat, we experience it as players and he has experienced it as a coach. Ultimately we didn’t perform as well as we should have done and Stuart paid the price for that.”
“On another day we could have won the Wales game, but to be fair Australia were too good for us, and now I’m sure everyone is thinking that they have to prove themselves again. I’ve not met or spoken to Eddie Jones but I know the Premiership is full of top class wingers – Charlie (Sharples) here at Gloucester, Christian Wade (also injured at the moment) Marland Yarde, Chris Ashton….plus Jack (Nowell) and Anthony (Watson) who were in the World Cup squad. May smiles when I mention the Challenge Cup success last spring. It was his first winner’s medal.
“This is my club and I really feel part of it having come through the Academy” said Jonny. “We showed glimpses of what we could do in that competition and to win it was brilliant. When people talk about it, you feel very proud, but we don’t want to be known as just a Challenge Cup team, we want to use it to push forward.
With eight rounds of the Premiership season gone, Gloucester have crept into the top half of the table and league success is high on May’s wish list for 2016.
“We’ve been disappointed to under achieve in the Premiership, but you end up where you deserve to be. There are slightly weaker and slightly stronger teams but the margins are really small, and with a couple of exceptions all the other teams probably think they can make the top six.”
“The consistent teams have had the same coaching staff in place for a long time. We’ve had changes, but then we’ve tended to have one season which has been ok followed by one which has been disappointing, and you can say that about the last two now.” May is prompted by the passing figure of Nick Wood here but he’s right. The sequence for the last five seasons reads 3rd, 9th, 5th, 9th and 9th.
“In my opinion there is never any reason why we should lose at home, and away we should be competitive in every game” May concluded.
“It’s about coming out on the right end of the one of two moments that decide every match, and if we can win more than we lose we’ll at least be hanging in there for a top six place. Do that, and win the Challenge Cup again, and it’ll be a happy year all round.”
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