England's May gains inspiration from Pacifica

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2014
Jonny May
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HOPING TO START: England wing Jonny May.

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The "Pacification" of English rugby includes a lanky, white lad from Gloucester who looks likely to line out against some of his idols at Eden Park on Saturday night.

The increasing Polynesian factor in England's player ranks includes Samoan centre Manu Tuilagi and Tongan prop Billy Vunipola on this current tour.

But the island influence runs deeper than that.

Jonny May, who played every Six Nations game on the wing for England this year and should be in the mix to play the All Blacks in the series opener this weekend, made it clear it was New Zealand's island connections who had set the standards for outside back play.

Names like Lomu, Umaga and Nonu ran off his tongue as he spoke of his excitement at getting a chance to play in New Zealand.

"I have got a lot of respect for the All Blacks. Obviously other than England they were my favourite team to watch growing up," he said.

"Loads of great players play for them and they are the best team in the world. They have been throughout my life.

"So it's a great opportunity, but a big challenge as well." Asked for specifics, he revealed: "Obviously Lomu, Umaga ... obviously Nonu has filled his boots well and there are great players in the team now as well."

May, who played a test against Argentina last year before getting his run of five starts this year, said he was eager to implement some key lessons he had learned from his Six Nations experience.

They are the sort of things that come second-nature to All Blacks outside backs.

"The main thing I noticed in the Six Nations is I could have just backed myself a bit more. The confidence thing, being involved in that first time ... it's the belief in myself.

"It was frustrating coming off the pitch thinking 'Oh I could have gone for it then'. It was just having the belief in yourself to go for it in those big games. It wasn't quite there. I've learnt from it and I want to put it right.

"I've gone back to club level and worked on that and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to putting that into practice. I'm a quick learner and I think I'd make some better decisions now."

May freely admitted a clash against the All Blacks would represent his biggest challenge. Playing at Eden Park, a graveyard for touring teams, added to that pressure. Again, it was something he believed he was now ready for.

"I'm newish to this scene but I have a bit of experience of it in the Six Nations in terms of big crowds, big occasions; I'm sure it will be up there with things like France away and Twickenham at home. But obviously in New Zealand, a rugby-mad nation, an All Blacks haka to face, it's going to be a great atmosphere."

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With the under-strength English team largely written off, May agreed the men in white had "nothing to lose".

But the 1.86m 24-year-old who can also play centre and fullback believes this English side have better credentials than many Kiwis credit them with.

"We have some great players out there, we are a team that is going forwards at the moment. We're not a rubbish team ... we have good principles, good structures and everyone is buying into that.

"I think we are a tough outfit to play against for anyone. [It's] irrelevant if we have got new players because the culture we create as a team and the way we play, it's easy for people to jump in." 

- Stuff

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