England’s May expects aerial challenge against Ireland’s ‘Gaelic football background’

ENGLAND WING JONNY May is expecting a strong aerial challenge from Ireland’s kicking game in their Six Nations clash in Dublin on Saturday.

As Ireland’s attack with ball-in-hand struggled last weekend during their win over Scotland, Andy Farrell’s side were reliant on their kicking game to create opportunities.

Their first try came after Robbie Henshaw got a hand to Johnny Sexton’s contestable bomb before the out-half followed up with a cross-kick to Keith Earls that bounced and allowed Henshaw to score.

Ireland had further success with similar contestable kicks from Sexton in Murrayfield, although Jamison Gibson-Park’s box-kicking was inconsistent.

Having played against Ireland seven times over the course of his career, England wing May expects another aerial challenge this weekend.

“I always see it, personally, as a huge aerial contest against Ireland,” said May. “The Gaelic football background is something they pride themselves on and they’re good at. You know that’s coming, the contest in the air.

“How do I break that down? There’s loads of things. There’s reading body language, first and foremost, to read the kicks. There’s being committed in the air, there’s getting your timing right, having the attitude to compete and win the ball.

“That’s just one area of contest within a game that’s made up of lots of contests against Ireland. That’s how I see the game. The air is one contest, the floor is another in terms of the breakdown, the gainline in terms of the forwards carrying, then the set-piece as well.

“That’s how I always see a game against Ireland – a contest game and they’re very good at it. They scrap for everything, they’re a good contest team.”

May has played against Ireland twice since Farrell took over and Mike Catt came in as attack coach, but he hasn’t seen any great change in how they have played since the Joe Schmidt days.

The 30-year-old, who scored twice against Ireland last autumn in Twickenham – one after claiming an Owen Farell cross-field kick and the other a spectacular effort from inside his own 22 – does believe that Ireland are a danger this weekend.

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“Essentially, I think they’re building on what they were already and I feel like they perform pretty well,” said May. “They have been very competitive, their attitude, you can see they have a good team attitude and that’s more than half of it.

“They’re showing up every game, they’re physical, committed, they play hard for each other. That’s probably got better, to be honest with you, under Farrell and Catt. The guys are really fired up and playing tough for one another.

“They’ll probably be disappointed and feel like they’re probably a bit better than what’s showing on the table at the moment. A couple of narrow losses, a red card, a close game against France.

“They’ll be feeling similar to us. They’ll be relieved about the result against Scotland, which they deserved because it would have been awful – just like it would have been awful for us if we’d lost [against France] – but they’ll be thinking they need to finish off this campaign showing how far they’ve come.”