May: Scotland defeat was the ‘wake-up call’ England needed

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Jonny May says England’s Round 1 defeat to Scotland was exactly what was needed to stop themselves resting on their laurels in 2021.

Jonny May says England’s Round 1 defeat to Scotland was exactly what was needed to stop themselves resting on their laurels in 2021.

Gregor Townsend’s side earned themselves a first win at Twickenham in 38 years with an 11-6 victory on the opening weekend, as they outfought the reigning champions all over the pitch to claim an historic win.

The hosts had just 38% of possession during the game, while their normally reliable defence missed 29 tackles as the visitors dominated throughout.

And since that day, May reveals that him and his teammates have had to step it up a gear in camp, with those efforts being rewarded with impressive victories over Italy and France either side of a Round 3 defeat to Wales.

“The whole lot of us got a wake-up call against Scotland,” May told BBC Sport.

“I’m telling you, we got a smack. But that was the line in the sand we needed to have a good hard look at ourselves and change things.

“The response has been brilliant. We performed well against Italy and won, we performed well against Wales and lost. And then it felt like we sort of brought it all together, upped the performance and got the result against France.

“We needed that win, it was an important win for England rugby, not just for the people in this environment, but the people watching at home as well.”

England came into this year’s Championship off the back of a memorable 2020 campaign, where they claimed the crown on the last day of the Guinness Six Nations, as well as going on to lift the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup.

And after registering eight wins out of nine heading into the new year, expectations had lifted not just within the camp but also from outside, and May claims that pressure was felt among the squad – with the need to up their game paramount after the Scotland defeat.

“We have been under pressure from ourselves firstly, no-one can put ourselves under more pressure than what we do,” the winger said.

“But we felt it externally as well. You can’t help but feel it. We care a lot about what we do and there is a bit of a regret that there is a lot of people at home watching us at the moment and you want to give them something to smile about.

“Our set-piece and our defence [in 2020] was brilliant, we won games, but our attack wasn’t quite right. That got swept under the rug because we were winning games.

“And then Scotland, on a day where the set-piece and defence wasn’t quite where it needs to be, which will happen sometimes, it really shone a light on the fact our attack wasn’t there to win us the game when it should have been.”

After a Championship which has seen them win two of their four matches to date, England have the chance to end the competition on a high this weekend when they travel to Dublin to face Ireland.

Both sides tasted victory last time out, with the hosts overcoming Scotland thanks to Johnny Sexton’s late penalty at BT Murrayfield, while the Red Rose fought tooth and nail to defeat a high-flying French side at Twickenham.

And despite neither side being able to lift the trophy after the Round 5 encounter, May believes there is still a lot riding on the match at the Aviva Stadium, as he and his teammates look to prove themselves once again after that win over Les Bleus.

“It’s funny really because I’m nervous now, because what does that mean if we don’t back it up?” May pondered.

“We need to be on it this week, and we are. It is going to be a huge game and I bet Ireland are feeling exactly the same.

“They’ve had a similar campaign to us and they will be desperate to win this last game.”