Jonny May believes England’s back-line can develop into the very best in rugby as a gruelling summer of World Cup preparation comes to a head on Friday.
Should England hoist the Webb Ellis Trophy come October 31 it is likely that an inexperienced back-line will have come of age.
The starting backs against Fiji – unchanged from a promising warm-up performance against Ireland – have compiled 164 caps between them, but scrum-half Ben Youngs and full-back Mike Brown make up more than half of that number.
Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson, May and George Ford, England’s first-choice fly-half after making his maiden international start in the autumn, all have 16 caps or fewer – but the fearlessness of youth seems to be working for England.
May, who was dropped from the England squad midway through Six Nations earlier this year, has responded by scoring two tries in three warm-up games while 21-year-old Watson’s try-tally over the summer stands at three.
That’s without mentioning the rapid rise of Ford and Joseph, after the Bath duo made names for themselves during the Six Nations, and May insists the sky is the limit for the entire back-line.
“We’ve talked about the potential of this back-line because it’s got world-class potential,” said the Gloucester wing. “We’ve got ambitions to be the best back-line in the world. It’s a big target to go for, but I think we’ve got the potential to do it.
“Personally I’m happy with how the camp and how the warm-up games have gone. I’m always a player trying to learn and improve and be the best I can be.
“But more importantly the team is gelling together and since that 31-man squad has been announced we’ve all been in it together.
“The mood has definitely changed and we’ve grown tighter – all the details are coming together between the backs and the back three, and we’re growing as a group.
“I’ve made gains across the board in terms of fitness, size, strength and speed over the pre-season. It’s been great to have a 12-week block to really push ourselves. I haven’t that for a few years, so along with the other boys across the board, we have made gains.”
Fiji however will be no pushovers at Twickenham come Friday night, with the Pacific Nations Cup winners boasting a number of weapons that May admits England have been thoroughly briefed about.
In particular Nemani Nadolo, who stands at 6’5’’ and weighs in at 20 stone on a lean day, is sure to ask questions while May is well-acquainted with the brute strength of Fiji captain, and his former Gloucester teammate, Akapusi Qera.
“Nemani Nadolo is a talisman for them, he’s a big strong guy and an intelligent rugby player, a good left foot and he plays the game well as an offload threat,” May added.
“Akapusi Qera, he played with me at Gloucester, but their team is full of those types of players. Qera is a good guy and I look forward to seeing him after the game, but I’ll try and avoid running into him during the game – he’s a big hitter and a strong ball-carrier.
“They’ve grown as a team in terms of detail and structure over the years – they’re going to be tough.”
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