sport

Cuthbert ready for May battle

Alex Cuthbert is relishing the "exciting" prospect of going head-to-head with his friend and former college team-mate Jonny May next week.

Both players served part of their rugby apprenticeship at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire, where the current director of elite sport is former Bath and England captain Phil de Glanville.

Cuthbert and May, born just four days apart in Gloucester and Swindon respectively, could potentially have been England colleagues.

Cuthbert, though, whose mother is from Wrexham, took the Wales route, and 10 tries in 22 Tests underline what a key component he has become in coach Warren Gatland's team.

By comparison, fellow wing May is still learning his trade at international level, but the 23-year-old's game-breaking quality means opposite number Cuthbert will have to watch him closely when Wales and England put their RBS 6 Nations title credentials on the line.

"I have known Jonny since college days, and we grew up playing in the same team," Cuthbert said.

"He is a good boy and has done really well, making yards and beating a lot of players.

"I had two years at Hartpury with Jonny. I am good mates with him and I am glad he is doing well.

"He was breaking into Gloucester's academy while we were at Hartpury. I have not played against him before, and it will be exciting if we are both selected.

"I speak to him now and then and see him when I go back to Gloucester. I might send him a little text next week.

"England have a dangerous back-three (May, Jack Nowell and Mike Brown), and if you kick long to them and give them time and space they will cause problems, especially with the confidence Mike Brown has.

"We have to keep them away from the ball, as they will look to do to us. Give May a yard and he is gone. He will score from anywhere, as he has shown for Gloucester."

Cuthbert proved to be England's nemesis at the Millennium Stadium last season, touching down twice as Wales destroyed their opponents' Grand Slam dream with a record 30-3 victory.

That landslide success also ensured that Wales retained the Six Nations crown, and they will head to Twickenham knowing that a third Six Nations victory in four visits under Gatland to English rugby headquarters would maintain hopes of achieving an unprecedented title hat-trick.

Reflecting on events 12 months ago, Cuthbert added: "It is one of my best memories in rugby, with the (2013) British and Irish Lions, but it was a year ago and England are a different team to then, as are we.

"I would rather have scored the tries last year without an injured hamstring! It was one of those games when I definitely did not want to come off.

"It showed how much it meant to me playing with the boys and not giving up, and I am glad I played for the rest of the game.

"If that defeat had happened to us, I would still be thinking about it, but you have to get on with it and not take it too personally.

"They (England) are playing well and will be full of confidence. They can perhaps hurt us in parts of the game, but they know what we can do as well.

"It will be about who turns up and wants it more. Whoever takes charge of the first 20 minutes will have the upper hand, but England have shown they can come from behind, as was the case against Ireland last weekend.

"We could start well and they could come back, and it will need the full 80 minutes to win the game."

Wales' last Twickenham visit two years ago was decided in their favour by a late, opportunist Scott Williams try, although it still took some heroic last-ditch defending by Leigh Halfpenny and Jonathan Davies to keep England out.

"It was a tough game and a close affair," Cuthbert said. "Scott Williams scored a hell of a try at the end to separate the teams, and it will probably take a bit of magic next week to win the match.

"We have a good record against them, and at Twickenham. You want to play there, a great, hostile atmosphere. I remember that when Scott scored it went quiet. It is one to look forward to."