Jonny May enters the final phase of his career determined to enjoy every moment after a spell recovering from a knee injury sharpened his appetite for the game.
May missed England’s Six Nations campaign with a torn meniscus that was initially caused by a kick to the back of the leg by Gloucester team-mate Ruan Ackermann in early January.
Four months later and the electric 32-year-old wing is hoping to force his way back into Eddie Jones’ plans in time for Sunday’s fixture against the Barbarians and the subsequent tour to Australia.
“I’m probably in the last quarter or so of my career now and the goal is to keep leaving no stone unturned, keep exploring, keep being curious and try and enjoy myself a bit more,” May said.
“You realise when you are injured that you feel sorry for yourself for playing 80 minutes every week sometimes because it is tough. All those things – be happier, enjoy it and rip in and be the best I can.
“There are always silver linings and opportunities when you are injured to have a rethink about things, re-evaluate, have a break and then to be grateful again.
“The bottom line is I’m as hungry as ever and as desperate as ever to just be a student of the game and constantly search for ways and little tweaks to get better. Just to be a happier person and a better rugby player.”
May’s movement was severely restricted for a month at a time when he and his partner Sophie had completed on a house, preventing him from providing any meaningful help on the move.
And unlike a previous significant knee injury, he found himself struggling with the pain.
“It probably was a bit harder than I thought it was going to be, different to other surgeries I’ve had,” he said.
“I’ve had an ACL before and that was not that painful but more, ‘come on, let’s get going again’. But this one felt like it was going well but it was just so painful for a long period of time.
“The reason I’m in good spirits now is because I wouldn’t have thought I’d be here six weeks ago. I was still bloody waking up, stairs were grumbly, and this and that.
“I was getting through my bits, running all right and hitting good scores, but it was still so sore so when you break that curve you start feeling a bit happier again because being in pain and chronic discomfort can get you down.
“I was watching games of rugby when standing on one leg thinking, ‘how the hell am I going to jump on this again let alone sprint around and step’?”
Meditation, documentaries and reading helped him through the rehabilitation process, but they were only brief distractions to the task in hand.
“I haven’t taken a day off since the injury. I’d rather be throwing the kitchen sink at it because that’s the only way out of it,” May said.
“I hate it so much and I’m so keen to get back and play as quickly as I can. I couldn’t have gone on holiday for a week – that would have been my idea of hell.”