England star Jonny May has reflected on the “huge disappointment” of being overlooked for this summer’s British and Irish Lions tour.
And the 31-year-old Gloucester wing feels that any chance of becoming a Lion has now realistically passed him by.
It will be 2025 before the Lions reconvene, with a tour to Australia awaiting them, and May feels he could not have done any more during the four-year Lions cycle between New Zealand 2017 and South Africa in July and August.
Only Rory Underwood has scored more tries for England, with May having amassed 33 in 66 Tests, while 25 of those touchdowns came in 41 games between the last two Lions tours.
“I will be honest, it was a huge disappointment,” May told the PA news agency. “It was a big goal of mine.
“I worked incredibly hard over a four-year cycle to become the best player I could be and give myself every chance of going, but you just can’t control selection.
“I look back to that four-year cycle, the work I put in and the way I played, I didn’t really feel like I could have done any more.
“You just have to accept it. It is something I wanted to do – it is not something I am going to be able to do. It’s in the past now.
“It’s part of playing a team game. For anybody who plays rugby, there are certain things that you will face in your career that are going to be disappointing.
“Probably the two hardest things to deal with are not getting picked and getting injured, but the game we play, those things are going to happen to you at some point.
“You have just got to get back up and keep going with it, really.”
May missed out behind England colleague Anthony Watson, Scotland international Duhan van der Merwe, Wales’ Josh Adams and his Gloucester team-mate Louis Rees-Zammit when it came to head coach Warren Gatland’s Lions wing choices.
Although 20-year-old Rees-Zammit did not feature in the Test series, he scored tries against South African opponents the Lions, Sharks and Stormers as he built impressively on a title-winning Six Nations campaign with Wales.
“What a season he had,” May added.
“To be fair to Louis, in terms of what I see with where he is at, he is one of the most naturally-talented players I have ever come across.
“He is as fast as anybody I have seen and he is natural on the ball as well. It all just comes very easily to him.
“Really, in terms of what’s in store for his career, the world is at his feet. I am confident he is going to go on to achieve great things.”
Gloucester finished 11th in last season’s Gallagher Premiership, but seven losing bonus points – only Worcester collected more – showed how close several of their games were.
“We were in the games last season,” May said, ahead of next week’s Premiership opener at Northampton. “We were a competitive, hard-working team.
“But we now need to build on those critical fine-margin things that win you games.
“Every team will say they have had a great pre-season, every team will say they are going to be better this year.
“And the reality is the teams are getting better, the games are getting harder and the league is getting tighter.”
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