FOR eight minutes it felt as though it was Royal Wootton Bassett versus the whole of France at Ballard’s Ash Sports Ground on Saturday, as rugby star Jonny May made his Six Nations bow for England.
Jonny, 23, was unfortunately replaced less than 10 minutes into the match with France after suffering a suspected broken nose.
The anti-climax took the wind out of the sails of those who had descended upon the town rugby club’s ground to cheer on their homegrown talent.
At the age of seven Jonny joined and made big strides before departing in his teens and ending up with Gloucester in the Premiership.
The former Ridgeway School pupil won his second cap in the white of England and made his Six Nations debut near defeat against France in Paris.
Danny Randall, 24, a former team mate of Jonny’s in the youth ranks, said: “He only lasted 10 minutes, which was a bit of a shame given the reason everyone was here today.”
Danny, who still plays for Royal Wootton Bassett senior side, said the England international did not show any real signs of potential until his late teens.
“He came into his own about 17 or 18, when he began to come out of his shell, but before I wouldn’t say he stood out.”
Jonny made one significant carry in his cameo, and gained yards with his first touch of the ball. It was all too premature to get a real feel for how he coped, however.
The debut still filled the members of the rugby club with pride, despite its brevity.
Jim Brierley, vice-chairman at the rugby club, said: “It means an awful lot. As a club we have just moved into our new ground and clubhouse, and this was a great way to start our stay.
“He still comes back when he can and helps out when he can. He’s a Royal Wootton Bassett lad, so it’s to be expected.”
Jonny won his first England cap in the 51-26 victory over Argentina in June last year. Before that he had played for England in age-group sides, including the under-20 team. Jim said many of the coaches at the club commented on the international’s promise as a boy.
“Obviously, as a youngster, he had that sort of skill and talent that sets people apart,” said Jim.
“He has always had terrific speed. I am certain that would have been mentioned by the coaches at the time.
“In these days for the club, it is quite an important thing to go on and play Premiership rugby, so we knew he would find his way there eventually.”