Six Nations 2017: England winger Jonny May says he's 'getting quicker'

Jonny May
Jonny May (right) thanked England coach Eddie Jones for his support during his long injury lay off
Six Nations 2017 - England v France
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 4 February
Coverage: Radio and live text commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, the BBC Sport website and mobile app.

England winger Jonny May believes he is faster than ever after recovering from a career-threatening knee injury.

May, 26, who starts on the left wing as England host France in their Six Nations opener on Saturday (16:50 GMT), was out for nine months after tearing cruciate ligaments in December 2015.

"I think I'm getting quicker," the Gloucester player told BBC Sport.

"It's something I work on every week, and I'm finding new ways of getting better and physically improving."

May's rehab from what he acknowledges was a potentially career-threatening injury included a spell in Texas at the performance centre run by sprinter and multiple Olympic champion Michael Johnson.

He said: "As soon as I was running again at four months I knew I wanted to go to Texas.

"It's where all the NFL players and all the top track athletes go to get faster and more agile and get better acceleration. It definitely helped me improve.

"At this level it's about the small percentages, and they had some different equipment, some good coaches, a new environment.

"I did everything I could, whether it was standing on one leg brushing my teeth or making sure I hopped up the stairs on one leg. Simple things that I still do now, and it's paid off."

May returned to the England side in the autumn, scoring two tries in three matches to cement his place in one of the most competitive positions in the team.

And he is grateful to coach Eddie Jones, who regularly sent text messages of encouragement during his long injury hiatus, despite the pair never having met.

"He made a point of keeping in touch with me throughout, and that was brilliant for me," May said.

"It gave me motivation to think, 'Blimey, if I can get my knee right, I might have a chance of getting back in there.'

"He didn't need to [send messages]. It really lifted my spirits at a tough time."

'We want to hit the ground running'

Scrum-half Ben Youngs says England must begin their defence of the Six Nations at flat-out pace against France.

England are unbeaten in 13 matches under coach Jones, but twice last year found themselves 10-0 down to Australia in the first 15 minutes of games.

"Traditionally Six Nations teams feel themselves into it a little bit, and we don't want to do that," Leicester's Youngs said.

"We want to set a precedent in how we play, and show an improvement from the autumn to now. We want to hit the ground running."

Should England win a second successive Grand Slam they will break the world record for the longest series of victories in international rugby.

But they are missing key players, such as former skipper Chris Robshaw, vice-captain Billy Vunipola and brother Mako, lock George Kruis and winger Anthony Watson.

"Over the last 12 months, guys who have come in have taken their chances, and that gives us confidence," Youngs, 27, added.

"The generals in the team are so good that if you do come in, you're up to speed so quickly. We've got great strength whoever drops out."

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