ENGLAND legend Martin Johnson believes an ever-improving Jonny May is well on course for a Rugby World Cup starting berth – despite strong competition from a host of other talented contenders, writes PATRICK BOYLAND.

A regular fixture in Eddie Jones’ set-up over the past few seasons, Chiseldon’s May had another standout Six Nations campaign, scoring six tries in five matches – the most in the competition – and being nominated for Player of the Championship.

That try-scoring ability will be crucial come September in Japan, but Johnson – a World Cup winner with England as captain back in 2003 – has also been impressed with the way in which the Leicester Tigers winger has added new facets to his game.

“Jonny May, if you give him some space or a run to the line, he’ll pull it off,” said Johnson, who was speaking on behalf of Land Rover.

“He played well, and at times against Ireland did some things that you wouldn’t associate him with doing.”

May formed a balanced wing partnership with Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell as England improved on last year’s fifth-placed finish to end up second behind Grand Slam champions Wales.

And Johnson believes the pair’s reliability stands them in good stead as the race for places at the World Cup hots up – even if they face considerable threat from the likes of Bath duo Joe Cokanasiga and Anthony Watson.

“Jack Nowell is a different type of winger, but you know what you’re going to get if he plays,” said Johnson.

“It’s nice to have those options and those two aren’t young kids any more. You expect a consistency of performance from them now, they’ve set the standards.

“You need to be able to cover all eventualities. There’s no guarantee they’ll take four wingers.

“Those guys who’ve been injured, Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson, there will be a fight.

“If you can get everyone fit, they probably don’t all fit on the same plane. Some good guys will miss out.

“You don’t want people looking comfortable, you want that competition.”

There was a palpable sense of disappointment as England squandered a 31-point lead against Scotland on the final weekend to eventually draw 38-38.

Yet Johnson feels there is plenty of cause for optimism ahead of the World Cup, not least because of the emergence of a number of exciting new players.

“The good thing from England’s point of view is that they’ve had some players come in and play well,” said Johnson.

“There was definitely some good stuff and bits that weren’t so great. But the good thing is that there’s a lot of improvement in them.”

MARTIN Johnson is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover shares and understands the values of rugby. Follow @LandRoverRugby on Twitter.