England have suffered an early setback on their tour to Australia after Jonny May became a doubt for the series opener because of a positive Covid-19 test.
May’s case was confirmed on Friday after he became symptomatic upon arriving in Perth and under government guidelines he must spend the next seven days in self-isolation.
No other members of the touring party have been affected and while Eddie Jones has refused to rule the Gloucester wing out of the opening Test on July 2, it appears unlikely he will be involved.
May underwent knee surgery in January and, having made his comeback as a replacement against Saracens earlier this month, he started last Sunday’s rout against the Barbarians.
Already short of match fitness and facing a week in his hotel room, England’s second most prolific try scorer behind Rory Underwood will have little opportunity to prove he is ready to face the Wallabies.
“We’re not going to rule Jonny May out at this stage. We’ll just see how he is,” Jones said.
“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 that he’s lacking game time and 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.”
Joe Cokanasiga and Jack Nowell are the other established wings in the touring party that arrived in Perth on four different flights, uniting for the first time at 5am on Thursday morning.
Joe Marchant and Freddie Steward are also options in the position, as are uncapped duo Tommy Freeman and Henry Arundell.
Jones expects all 36 members of his squad apart from the self-isolating May to be training fully by Monday, with Saturday’s session at their Freemantle base the first proper run out.
England are missing seasoned campaigners such as Manu Tuilagi, Kyle Sinckler and Joe Launchbury through injury and there is an element of the unknown cloaking their series against Australia, who are also being reshaped.
What is beyond doubt for Jones, however, is the type of attitude the Wallabies will adopt for the series.
“Australia’s a place where you can become a special team because you just look at the record between Australian and English sporting teams,” Jones said
“You find out a lot about yourself because it’s a different feel, you get a different reception from the crowd.
“The game is probably a little bit faster than anywhere else in the world and you’ve got to adapt to that. You find out a lot about the players.
“It’s a great opportunity for the players to be part of something special and we’re encouraging them to be themselves and find themselves.
“We’re going to have to be aggressive, like really aggressive against the Aussies, because they come at you. In every sporting event where the Aussies are successful, they’re coming at you.
“So we’ve got to make sure we go at them, which takes a lot of courage.”
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