Jonny May has revealed that he confronted Steve Borthwick after his initial omission from England’s World Cup squad drew his “monkey out”.
May was told he would not be part of the 33 travelling to France in advance of the opening warm-up match against Wales in Cardiff yet would need to stay in camp for the three remaining fixtures.
The Gloucester wing was eventually offered his ticket over The Channel when Anthony Watson was ruled out of the tournament by a calf injury and he celebrated his return by touching down against Fiji.
It ended a rollercoaster month for England’s second highest try-scorer that began with him taking refuge in the gym when he had been given the bad news.
“The truth is that on the Monday before Wales, Steve spoke to me and said ‘as it currently stands you’re not playing at the weekend and aren’t in the 33’,” said the 33-year-old, whose son Jaxon was born in May.
“That got my monkey out, I’ll be honest. I was like ‘well what the hell am I doing here this week’. I felt like that in that moment. I’m not going and I’m not playing at the weekend, so why the hell am I here?
“I went to the gym for 10 minutes and then stomped back to him and said I need another chat.
Jonny May and Alex Mitchell are included in the squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) August 27, 2023
“I said ‘I’m running this by you because maybe I don’t want to be here this week because why am I here? I’ve got my son at home’.
“He said he didn’t want me to go home because I’m next in and it doesn’t look good if you quit now and then have to be called back in.
“So I was like ‘fair enough, that was a good point’. And I’d done this much time now, just calm down and plough on with it. But that was my initial response.
“I was disappointed because I expressed in week one I wanted a game and an opportunity to play.
“It looked like I wasn’t going to get that and I felt like I’d worked hard and played well and trained well. I really wanted it.
“There’s no right or wrong way to tell somebody they’re not in the team and I understand that from Steve’s part. I reacted angrily but rationally.
“I didn’t scream and shout at him, but I’m glad I stayed and then the opportunity came to stay and train and then I calmed down.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 5, 2023
“Then I looked at the bigger picture – I’ve done eight weeks away from home, what’s the harm in three more, trying to get a game and hang on in there?
“Then I’d have felt better than if I hadn’t, knowing I’d given it every possible chance.”
May has returned at a troubled time for England as they enter their pivotal World Cup opener against Argentina on the back of a dismal run of form that has produced five defeats in six Tests.
It means the Pumas are rated marginal favourites to triumph in Marseille on Saturday – a position May insists is being embraced by Borthwick’s squad.
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) June 15, 2023
“This time, we’re definitely underdogs. We’re still finding our way, we’re still finding our team, we’re still discovering ourselves,” May said.
“People would think Argentina are favourites for the game. People look at us as underdogs and I think people have written us off a little bit.
“We’re embracing that within this group and paying it as much attention as each person wants to, but ultimately focussing on what we’ve got to do, getting tighter as a group and believing a bit more each day.”