England have suffered their first significant setback on the summer tour of Australia with Jonny May testing positive for Covid and forced into isolation for seven days. Eddie Jones did not rule May out of next Saturday’s first Test in Perth but the 69-cap winger’s participation is in considerable doubt following the positive result.
In accordance with Western Australia’s regulations, May has to isolate for seven days, meaning the earliest he could train with the rest of the squad is Thursday – the day Jones names his team for the first Test. England arrived in Perth on Thursday and after showing symptoms May received the positive result on Friday. It is understood that the England travelling party are not subject to mandatory testing in Australia, unless they become symptomatic.
It is a significant setback considering May impressed Jones with his 80-minute performance in defeat against the Barbarians last Sunday, having battled back from a long-term knee injury suffered in January. If May is unavailable for the first Test, it would also leave England light on experience in the back three. Jack Nowell is the second most experienced in that area with 39 caps but Joe Cokanasiga, Freddie Steward, Tommy Freeman, George Furbank and Henry Arundell are all relative rookies on the international stage.
“We’re not going to rule Jonny May out at this stage,” said Jones. “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 and 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.”
In better news for England, Luke Cowan-Dickie who has not played for club or country since sustaining a knee injury during the Six Nations, has stepped up his training load and while some players who took part in the Premiership final – in which Leicester edged out Saracens – are still carrying knocks, Jones expects the full squad to train on Monday, May aside. The squad went for a recovery swim in the Indian Ocean on Thursday before light training on Friday and with a first full-on session scheduled for Saturday.
“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 insisted there was no conflict of interest arising from his work with the Australia centre Samu Kerevi in his role as a consultant coach for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan. On Thursday Kerevi said that he and Jones had “talked throughout the year” and that the England head coach had given him “pointers”. But Jones said: “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.”