Jonny May has warned Australia that the fastest man in English rugby is quicker than ever after clocking a speed he thought beyond his capability.
May has been restored to the starting XV for tomorrow’s visit of the Wallabies to Twickenham after overcoming the hamstring strain that forced him to miss the 21-8 win against Argentina.
Despite having just recovered from the injury, May set a new personal best top speed of 10.49 metres per second, recorded by GPS on grass five days ago, and a highest vertical jump of 71cm.
The Leicester wing forms a rapid back three alongside Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly – possibly the fastest trio fielded by England – and they have been given the license to counter attack by head coach Eddie Jones.
“I was gobsmacked that I did it really because I had just tweaked my hammy the week before,” May said.
“It was a 40 or 50 metre sprint. It was a rehab run. I was shocked. I didn’t think I would go anywhere that fast. I knew I had to run flat out to test the hamstring.
“I was pretty nervous about doing it, but it was fine. And I ran quick as well and it was a bonus.
“We have spoken about Australia’s kicking game and we want to put pressure on that and hopefully get some good opportunity to run the ball back at them.”
While May’s speed is impressive in rugby terms, he distances himself from comparisons with Olympic sprinters.
“It’s just a different discipline because with rugby when you sprint you go balls out and let it all go,” May said.
“The sprinters are trained to build into a run and hit speeds that we couldn’t get near. But those guys don’t have to hit rucks and catch high balls.”
May is described as a “24/7 athlete” by captain Dylan Hartley and the Leicester Tiger admits there is a psychological influence on his preparation.
“It’s almost like an OCD routine. I’ve always done stretching from my teenage years. The more you train, the more you need to look after your body and respect it,” May said.
“I’d say I spend at least three or four times as much time warming up and warming down as I do on the training pitch.”
May has come in for the concussed Mike Brown against Australia with Watson moving to full-back, while Owen Farrell replaces Henry Slade at inside centre.
Joe Launchbury is preferred to George Kruis at lock and Maro Itoje, who alongside Farrell was rested against Argentina, is picked on the bench.
“Maro is so fresh and eager to go. It’s like he’s had a pre-season, like he’s had a break. It’s like he’s been away to Barbados for three weeks,” Jones said.
“We want to physically dominate them. They’re probably the most physical side in the world and we want to show we can dominate them up front.”
Meanwhile, Australia have gone on the offensive ahead of tomorrow’s Cook Cup clash by claiming Jones is “spoilt” and accusing England of hitting their half-backs late.
The old rivals collide at Twickenham amid a backdrop of verbal provocation from the Wallabies – a marked departure to the build-up of previous encounters when it is Jones who has waged the phoney war.
The Wallabies’ assistant-coach Stephen Larkham opened hostilities by goading Jones, under whom he won 43 Australia caps, over the financial support provided by the Rugby Football Union that places the England boss under pressure to deliver results.
So far Jones has done just that by overseeing four victories against the team he coached from 2001 to 2005 as part of a sequence of 20 victories from 21 Tests, but he now faces the biggest home game of the year against a resurgent Australia.
“If you look at the resources they have over here, he’s probably a little bit spoilt from where he’s come from,” Larkham said.
“There’s always going to be pressure when you’ve got pretty much unlimited resources around you.
“The facilities he has now are top-class and they’ve got plenty of resources in and around the team to make the most of the situation.
“Their facilities at Pennyhill Park are pretty phenomenal and then just the amount of staff they can have – consultants coming in, squad sizes, players to choose from and support from the RFU.
“Pressure comes with that, doesn’t it? When you’ve got all those resources and you’ve had the record you’ve had, that’s the expectation. That’s where the pressure comes from.”
Head coach Michael Cheika then used Australia’s team announcement press conference to claim that in four previous matches against Jones’s England, his half-backs have been targeted with late tackles.
“They are a big, strong and powerful side. They will try to bully us. Traditionally that’s the way the game has gone,” said Cheika.
“They try to bully us at scrum, at the line-out and at the ruck – trying to get into us, niggle, trying to get into our half-back after he passes, the 10 after he passes.
“There is so much footage of that. They wait for us to crack. The fact they are unified behind that strategy means we must look them in the eye and take them on if we are going to be able to resist them.”
The Wallabies have named an unchanged team following their 29-21 victory at the Principality Stadium.
Kurtley Beale, who spent last season at Wasps, will win his 70th cap.