Jonny May will again be absent from England’s lineup this weekend with the lingering effects of Covid still delaying his return to full training. The Gloucester winger did some light running on Tuesday but is not poised to return for this weekend’s second Test against Australia.
May missed his side’s first Test defeat in Perth after testing positive shortly after arriving in Australia. He emerged from isolation on Friday but has yet to recover sufficiently to be in contention for Saturday’s all-important game at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. While Billy Vunipola and Jack Nowell also missed training with minor knocks, both are expected to be available to face the Wallabies.
With Tom Curry already out of the tour after a third concussion in five months, the head coach, Eddie Jones, must now determine his best options for a match that could fundamentally shape the series. May’s absence leaves Jack Nowell and Joe Cokanasiga as the squad’s most experienced wingers but the fast-emerging Henry Arundell and Tommy Freeman are also in contention.
In the back row Sam Underhill, Lewis Ludlam and Jack Willis are the three players vying to replace Curry, who flies home on Wednesday. “We’ve got three really good guys competing to replace him,” said England’s defence coach, Anthony Seibold. “Lewis Ludlam came on and competed really strongly when Tom Curry came off on Saturday. He’s been a great leader for Northampton this year and when he comes into camp you can certainly tell why he is the captain of his club.
“Jack Willis is really good over the ball and competes really strongly defensively while Sam Underhill was one of the outstanding players at the 2019 World Cup. He missed out on selection for the first Test but he’s competed really strongly to put himself in the frame for the second. So we’ve got some options there. Tom’s a big part of our team so he’ll be a loss but it’s an opportunity for somebody else.”
England’s management also insist that Curry is expected to make a full recovery after a summer break. “There’s a longer-term piece at play with Tom’s health,” said Seibold. “He’s had some recent concussions so the medical staff would rather err on the side of caution. We don’t have any concerns over his medium- to longer-term health. He’s disappointed he’s not staying and can’t play because he’s a competitor but there is a longer-term view at play.”