Jonny May, one of England's greatest all-time try-scorers, gives us his take on the 2024 Guinness Men's Six Nations.
Who was your Player of the Championship?

Ben Earl. He seems to be getting better and better and is a critical part of that England team now with his plays in attack and defence. He had his breakthrough in the World Cup, and he’s more than backed that up this Championship, which is difficult for any player to do. It hasn’t happened overnight for him: he’s been patient and been in and around the England squad for a while, continued to play well for Saracens, and when he’s been given a proper chance he’s really taken it. Not every player can take their club form to the international stage, but Ben’s done just that.

What was your favourite try?

I like first-phase tries like the one England scored against Scotland, which was lovely execution. Italy scored some brilliant tries too, including against England, but I’m going to go with the first-phase try they scored through Lorenzo Pani against Wales in Cardiff. They were by far the most improved team this Championship as well, and this typified how efficient they were.

What was your moment of the Championship?

Marcus Smith’s drop goal against Ireland. It was the icing on the cake of England’s performance. To win it with a drop goal with time in the red was fantastic for them. The pressure they’d been under to deliver that performance was huge. That was the best moment for me.

Who stepped up the most for England?

Jamie George took on the captaincy during a very challenging time for England and he’s steered them through everything that’s been thrown at them. When it looked like this campaign was on the cusp of being a failure, he turned it around. Through all this, he had to deal with his mum passing away, and the birth of his child. Nobody has stepped up more than Jamie George.

Who was the most unfortunate player in the England squad?

Freddie Steward is a world-class player who is still very much in Steve Borthwick’s plans, but he’s had to take a step out this year while George Furbank got to show what he can do. Furbs deserved his shot because he’s been brilliant for Northampton. Like Ben Earl, he’s been in and around the England squad before, and he’s gone away and come back an even better player.

But people need to move away from the ‘who’s better than who?’ debate, because it’s not about that. Steve's job is to pick the right players at the right time, according to what he wants England to do tactically. In this case, that would have hurt Freddie, but he will have handled himself very well and helped the lads prepare. I can see this being a positive experience for him.

Have we started to see Steve Borthwick’s vision for England?

The makings of a blueprint are there. We’re firing shots, which was evident in the game plan for France. Granted, it didn’t look like that in the first two games, but with a new defence coach I’m sure the first few weeks of training had to be invested in that area of their game. We’re starting to see this efficient, fast, punchy attack now. That’s all Steve has ever wanted, but it takes time to get there.

Do you expect Ireland to claim a third consecutive title in 2025?

Not necessarily. I can see Scotland being very good for at least another year with a squad that’s pretty fixed. They’re going to be desperate to win a title after a long wait. Theirs is as good a team as I can remember them having. England are improving and France are always a beast. Wales are in a difficult spot at the moment, but things can change quickly - just look at Italy’s turnaround. We’ve seen this year that on any given day, any team can win when you’ve got top athletes and well-coached teams that are tactically smart.

Has there been a shift in power with some of the results we’ve seen this year?

Wales have got a bit of work to do but, as is always the case, you’re never quite as good as people say you are, but you’re never quite as bad either. The margins in these games are so fine, and things can turn around very quickly. I couldn’t believe how badly Italy lost to France and New Zealand in the World Cup - I was disappointed for them - and then they come into this campaign and beat Wales, Scotland, and should have beaten France. All of he top 12 or so teams in the world can give each other a good game.

Are there any uncapped England players you think could make the squad for next year’s Championship?

I’m going to talk about wingers, because there’s a handful of those around who are more than good enough to play international rugby right now. We saw Will Muir and Cadan Murley looked sharp in the England A game against Portugal, and it’s easy to forget that Sale Sharks’ Tom Roebuck has been in camp already, so Steve has got his eye on him. The guys who played those positions this Six Nations are going strong, but lots can happen with back three players. It’s great to see them all competing and improving together.

How will England fare on their summer tour with Tests against Japan and New Zealand?

We shouldn’t expect the Japan game to be a gimme. That’s going to be a very hard game. We played them in the World Cup and it took us to the closing stages to break them down properly. It’s one we should win though, and performance is important to keep us taking steps forward. New Zealand are ahead of us right now - like Ireland, they’re further along in their journey than England are - but we want to challenge the teams above us and knock them down like we did against Ireland. It will be fascinating to see how they do there.