George Ford, Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs and Dan Cole were all in the starting XV at Welford Road last Saturday, only two weeks on from losing in the RWC decider to South Africa. However, while Murphy has named a weakened side, there is still no return for winger Jonny May, who is yet to play after arriving from Japan.
The winger started in the RWC against the Springboks in Yokohama but was an injury doubt leading into the final after battling with a hamstring injury sustained during the pool stages.
May looked in fine fettle against Australia in the quarter-final, particularly as he hared after Henry Slade’s kick for his second try. He started against the All Blacks the following weekend, but there was a telling sign that he was not 100 per cent when Scott Barrett was able to chase him down in open space.
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The Leicester flyer has made his name by punishing any side when he is given space and while Barrett must be commended for tracking back, this surprised many. May came off shortly after half-time in that match and concerns grew about his ability for the final.
Eddie Jones allayed any fears before the final about the state of May’s hamstring, and while he did not show any weakness during that match as all of England’s backs were suffocated of any space against the Springboks, he was taken off on 70 minutes.
May’s counterpart in the final, Cheslin Kolbe, also suffered from an ankle injury throughout the RWC, but Rassie Erasmus opted to rest him against Wales in the semi-final. Jones did not have that luxury, however, in his semi-final given the threat posed by the All Blacks.
? TEAMS NEWS IS IN!
Here is the Tigers side to travel to Wales for Saturday evening's showdown with the Cardiff Blues ?? pic.twitter.com/bbaoHaKhJG
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) November 22, 2019
The fact that May did not play for Leicester last weekend could well have been a tactical choice by Murphy, but he opted to play all of his other England players. Now he has been left out again, a decision that suggests May is still not at full capacity after his exploits in Japan.
The 29-year-old has established himself as one of England’s best players over the past couple of years and his try-scoring record only proves that. He is one of Jones’ key players and his pace is integral to England’s kicking game. However, Leicester’s selections may have inadvertently revealed how fit he was at the RWC.
With Jack Nowell, Ruaridh McConnochie and Joe Cokanasiga all unused wingers in the England squad, Jones certainly had options but backed May. The Australian was obviously in the best position to make this call, but it would be surprising if Leicester have not picked him if he is fit.
WATCH: RugbyPass went behind the scenes with the Tonga national team as they prepared for the 2019 World Cup in Japan
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