onny May says England must back up their improved form with victory over Ireland on Saturday to prove they are over a “bump in the road” in their development that has reminded him of their growth-inducing slump in 2018.
While they beat Italy comfortably, it is in their two most recent fixtures – defeat to Wales and victory over France – that they have shown attacking improvement. May says the players took control after the defeat to Scotland, helping their uptick in performance, which he admits has been a “relief”.
“The Scotland game was a line in the sand for us,” he said. “It shone a light on the fact that our attack wasn’t good enough and we had to own it. What’s changed since then is we’ve got hold of it as a group. The attitude’s changed in terms of making it a bit simpler.
“We were probably overcomplicating it, over-structuring it, overthinking it and off the back of that we weren’t doing the simple things that allow you to attack properly.
“The players have got hold of it a bit more, because we needed to.
“There has been a shift with our attack. It feels good because you want to fire some shots. Of course you do. The most frustrating thing about the Scotland game is that it finished and we said what did we really throw at them? Not much and we still only lost by six points.”
May said that relying on instinct not coaching has helped England in their last two matches.
“There’s always a balance, isn’t there?” said May. “It’s like Goldilocks and the porridge… you want just the right amount. You don’t want too much information because that will fry your brains, but you don’t want not enough.
“Sometimes that information can be useful. For people to be up above, seeing the game from a different angle, sometimes they can give you critical information. That’s the balance we’re always fighting for. Where are we at with our attack now? We’ve got a little bit less information and a bit more do. Before, we were probably not enough do and too much information.”
May believes that another victory this week is vital, however, to ensure England finish a tough campaign on a high.
“I am very much still aware that there is still one more game to go,” he said. “I feel like we don’t back it up then I am going to be devastated and so are the boys. It was a moment of relief because all of us have worked hard and we felt the pressure we put on ourselves internally and all the pressure that has come on to us from outside and wanting to make people proud and happy.
May said England never lost belief through their “tricky spell.
“We have been going through a tricky spell, but belief never goes – certainly not for me, because I know how good this team is,” he said. “But you certainly feel the pressure. It is not pleasant losing, it is not pleasant underachieving and that does add pressure.
“So there is a relief in pressure as the expectations from within and externally – we want to win and we want to perform. But, deep down, Eddie [Jones] knew and I knew that these tough times and these challenges are what creates growth.
“Look back to the 2018 campaign and a couple of losses against South Africa, I think it was five in a row, within that last four year block that was probably the best thing we could have gone through. It made us tighter and it made us better. And I feel like this another one of these moments, progress is never a straight line, that is a fact. We have hit a bump in the road but I am proud of how the boys have responded and got hold of it. But we still need to push forward as we have a game this weekend.”