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May has eyes on top flight prize

Tom May hopes to guide London Welsh back to the Aviva Premiership at Bristol's expense on Wednesday night, five years after securing Newcastle Falcons' top-flight status at the same scene.

Captain May believes Welsh cannot afford to sit on their 19-point lead in the Championship play-off final second leg at the Memorial Ground.

The 35-year-old centre is keen to complete a new contract with Welsh, and is desperate for that deal to run its course in the Premiership.

May led Newcastle's 35-3 Bristol blitz at the Memorial Stadium in February 2009, moving to fly-half with Jonny Wilkinson sidelined with a dislocated kneecap.

The victory sparked a Newcastle resurgence that staved off relegation and consigned Bristol to the drop - and the two-cap England flyer is now hoping for a repeat.

"That was a real pressure game and it's a similar scenario again," said the former Toulon and Northampton three-quarter.

"We were on the back foot a lot at Newcastle, and that taught us how to fight in a corner.

"There have been times this season when we've let ourselves down, and we've had to fight our way out of a corner: this game is fairly similar."

Welsh take a 27-8 lead to Bristol on Wednesday, with May hoping to draw confidence from Newcastle's unexpected triumph back in 2009.

"When I was playing on the wing I guess in my own mind I wasn't always comfortable I was a winger," he said.

"So when I started playing 10 in that run, to simplify things (Newcastle coach) Steve Bates took me aside and said 'do what you want to do, if it's on it's on'.

"That made it very simple: I knew if I made a mistake it didn't necessarily matter.

"When you've got that weight lifted, personally it works, and things seemed to come off for me when I was in that mental place.

"It made that job easier, at times I didn't really know what I was doing, I just played what was in front of me."

London Welsh were relegated from the Premiership last summer, following a five-point deduction for Tyson Keats' incomplete registration.

Team manager Mike Scott accepted responsibility for the Keats fiasco, leaving the club, before rugby director Lyn Jones and a host of players departed at the end of the campaign.

May arrived from Northampton after rejecting Premiership deals and having been signed by Jones - to be greeted by new head coach Justin Burnell.

Former Newcastle star May said ex-Cardiff Blues coach Burnell deserves much of the credit for rebuilding both Welsh's squad and confidence, carrying them to the cusp of an immediate Premiership return.

"Justin's quite happy for us to try things here too," said May.

"He's been excellent in terms of taking the pressure off the lads.

"London Welsh last year were in a bad place, with things going on off the field.

"To get this team back up to the Premiership would be a hugely proud moment for me, in terms of the effort, emotional and physical, from all the lads.

"The way Justin's looked after the lads, he's simple in the way he goes about things. He'll give you honest answers, which you don't always get from coaches.

"We've flourished from having his influence on the team."

Expecting a fervent West Country welcome on Wednesday, May said Bristol still remain favourites for promotion.

"I've got a few things to prove, and some to people I don't even know," he said.

"People tweet you things and they think they're getting in your head, but actually it drives you on.

"Bristol fans have been tweeting me saying we've got no chance.

"That's no problem, I'm one of the ones that puts myself out there on Twitter, and I suppose I'm there to be shot down.

"But things like that fire me up, I don't shy away from it - I'm looking forward to it.

"When you start trying to defend 19 points that's when you come unstuck.

"Bristol were rightly favourites before the first leg and probably still are, at home with a full house."


From Belfast Telegraph