JONNY MAY has revealed that the recent bite to training has forced the intervention of coaches as England look to relaunch their NatWest 6 Nations title defence.
A 25-13 loss to Scotland produced only the second blemish of Eddie Jones’s 26 Tests in charge and on Saturday France provide the opportunity to make amends for surrendering the Calcutta Cup.
Leicester wing May insists the fallout from Murrayfield has been evident in the squad’s practice sessions.
“There has been a bit of an edge in camp – a positive one,” May said.
“The boys have been training hard and smashing each other in training. You can just feel it.
“(Captain) Dylan Hartley leads it well. He always says, ‘Listen, we don’t want the coaches blowing their whistles, telling us to up it. We want the coaches blowing their whistles, telling us to rein it in.’
“That’s how it has been this last couple of weeks.
“There have been no dust-ups, but it has been physical. It has needed to be.”
England’s only previous experience of defeat under Jones came in last year’s Grand Slam game against Ireland, the anguish of that occasion heightened by the knowledge that the same group of players would not meet again until the autumn due to British and Irish Lions call-ups.
The Stade de France showdown offers the prospect of immediate redemption by fixing the shortcomings in defence, leadership and at the breakdown that were exposed in Edinburgh.
“It’s the first time that we’ve had a loss and stayed together. Last time after the Ireland loss we all went away,” May said.
“It’s a shame we didn’t have a game last weekend because we all wanted to get back out on the pitch.
“Sometimes it’s disappointing that you need to have a loss to have a reaction. That’s why we can be scratching our heads and thinking, ‘Why did this need to happen for us to feel this way?’.
“I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel or go back to the drawing board because we’re a great team. It’s not that we were complacent or anything but sometimes you do get beaten and it does bring an edge and a desire to get back out there and put it right.
“It’s been pretty dark since. We’ve had to sit on the result for a couple of weeks. We were are all really disappointed and hard on ourselves.
“Now we want to go out there and show what it means. This is new territory for us. This is our opportunity to pull back together and learn as a group and push on.”
England name their team to France on Thursday morning, with Hartley’s fitness the main source of concern.
The captain is struggling with a tight calf which has been monitored daily and is subject to a fitness test, with Jamie George on stand-by to start at hooker and Owen Farrell the probable replacement as captain.
Blair Kinghorn will make his first start for Scotland against Ireland on Saturday after being named in Gregor Townsend’s side for their pivotal NatWest 6 Nations clash in Dublin.
The on-form Edinburgh wing’s inclusion is the only alteration to the side which beat England last time out as he replaces the injured Tommy Seymour.
Kinghorn - who has scored eight tries for his club side this term - made his debut off the bench in that triumphant Calcutta Cup win a fortnight ago.