England wing Jonny May is set to miss at least the first two rounds of the Six Nations, with a visit to a specialist determining the length of his absence.
The Gloucester finisher has been struggling with an ongoing knee problem and missed the club’s recent win over Perpignan at Kingsholm in the Challenge Cup.
He was subsequently withdrawn from Eddie Jones’ training squad and now faces a race against time to feature for England in the upcoming Six Nations charge.
Lengthier lay-off for May?
The February 26 showdown with Wales at Twickenham is the earliest he will be back, but the country’s second most prolific try-scorer behind Rory Underwood could also be looking at a lengthier lay-off.
“Jonny’s seeing some people this week, but it will definitely be a good couple of weeks. He’s seeing the best of the best,” Gloucester head coach George Skivington said.
“He’s had a niggle for a little while and it kept him out of one game a few weeks ago. It’s just been chipping away and it got to a point where it wasn’t great, so we decided to get it investigated.
“Once we know exactly what the story is we’ll have a better idea about the injury. It would have been one incident a few weeks ago, but he’s been managing his way through it, as generally speaking senior players do, and it just got a little too much.
“The hope is that he will still play in the Six Nations. If he can back involved in the Six Nations then great. It’s unfortunate for Jonny because we’d like to see him playing for England.
“There aren’t too many who will nail their rehab like Jonny. He’s on it every day anyway when he’s fully fit, doing all his pre-hab. When he comes back I’m sure he’ll be absolutely flying.”
While May faces an anxious wait, another of Gloucester’s stars is hoping to profit from injury.
Mark Atkinson, the 31-year-old late bloomer, could benefit from Owen Farrell’s ankle injury with a vacancy at inside centre opening up as he looks to add to his replacement appearance against Tonga in the autumn.
“I think Mark’s the best attacking 12 in the league. He can straighten the line up, he can carry hard, he’s got soft hands and can off-load,” Skivington said.
“He’s got great vision for where the space is. If you want to play an attacking brand of rugby then there’s no-one better than Mark Atkinson at 12.
“If you put him with Marcus Smith then you’ll seriously challenge defences because they’ll not know where to go. He smashes people in defence as well.
“I think he’s the best English 12 in the league and there isn’t anyone who does consistently what he does. When he’s on his mettle he’s a game changer.
“It would be very exciting for him to get a string of games for England. Getting his cap in the autumn was well deserved and he deserves some more. It made him realise how good he could be.”
Meanwhile, experienced Wales back-row Ross Moriarty is set for a chance to prove his fitness ahead of the upcoming Six Nations Championship.
The 27-year-old has been released from Wales’ squad for regional duty with the Dragons.
He has been out of action with a shoulder injury sustained during Wales’ Autumn Nations Series loss to New Zealand on October 30.
Moriarty, who has won 49 caps, subsequently underwent surgery.
He is among six players who could feature in United Rugby Championship action before rejoining the Wales squad on Sunday ahead of next week’s Six Nations opener against Ireland in Dublin.