England’s Australia summer tour has experienced a major setback, with Jonny May testing positive for Covid and being placed in isolation.
May was not ruled out of next Saturday’s first Test in Perth by Eddie Jones, but his participation is in serious question following the positive Covid-19 result.
May is required to isolate for seven days under Western Australian regulations, which means the earliest he may practise with the rest of the group is Thursday, the day Jones names his selection for the first test.
England landed in Perth on Thursday and obtained a positive test for May on Friday after he showed symptoms. It is thought that mandatory testing in Australia will not be required of the England travelling group unless they show any symptoms.
May absence brings significant setbacks
May is England’s second-highest try-scorer, and his expected absence from the opening Test would deprive Jones of one of his most seasoned campaigners in the back three.
The 32-year-old missed the Six Nations and made his first appearance since January 8 when he started and scored a try in England’s devastating 52-21 loss to the Barbarians last weekend.
The two England wing positions are now expected to be filled by Jack Nowell and Joe Cokanasiga in the first test. Jack Nowell has 39 caps, but Joe Cokanasiga, Freddie Steward, Tommy Freeman, George Furbank, and Henry Arundell are all newcomers to the international stage.
“We’re not going to rule Jonny May out at this stage,” said Jones regarding May’s absence. “We’ll just see how he is. Potentially he’ll be available next Thursday to train, so we’ll have a look to see what he’s like because he’s experienced,”
Jones also commented on how he was pleased with May’s 80-minute performance against the Barbarians last Sunday.
“He’s showed in his first game back against the Barbarians where he’s lacking game time that he’s got his best rugby ahead of him. We’ll just monitor his situation and make an assessment closer to the day when he gets out.”
Cowan-Dickie increases training load
Although Luke Cowan-Dickie has not played for club or country since suffering a knee injury in the Six Nations, he is stepping up his training load, while some players who took part in the Premiership final are still nursing injuries.
Jones hopes that the entire squad will participate in Monday’s practice. On Thursday, the team went for a recovery swim in the Indian Ocean before a light training session on Friday and a full-on training session the following day.
“We’ve got a couple of others from the [Premiership] final who haven’t been able to get on the paddock yet, but we’re hopeful that everyone will be able to train by Monday,” added Jones. “Luke Cowan-Dickie is just back on the training paddock today, so he’s had his first run with the team since a knee injury.”
Meanwhile, Jones said there was no conflict of interest in his work with Australia centre Samu Kerevi as a consultant coach for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan. Kerevi said on Thursday that he and Jones had “talked throughout the year” and that the England head coach had provided him “pointers.”
Jones went on to say: “I’ve been giving him pointers throughout the year? I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t see any contradiction. I’m a rugby coach, I like to help players. I enjoy coaching players. I don’t think there’s any contradiction there.”