JONNY May can win the Triple Crown next Sunday, but Charlie Sharples insists he is still Gloucester’s undisputed king of the track.
The 24-year-old was bitterly disappointed to be left out of the England Six Nations and Saxons squads in January but had no complaints over his omission.
He was later called up for the Saxons’ slender 14-8 defeat to the Irish Wolfhounds and has crossed the whitewash twice in his last three Premiership appearances.
But, while Sharples has been starring for the Cherry and Whites, May has been establishing himself in the Red Rose set-up and can clinch the Triple Crown with a victory over Wales at Twickenham on March 9..
The jet-heeled duo share a competitive rivalry and a close friendship which propels them in their need for speed.
But when, at Pennyhill Park on the eve of the Six Nations, May was asked who was the fastest in the Gloucester squad, he sheepishly replied with a straight bat.
“There are a lot of quick boys at Gloucester – myself, Charlie Sharples, Steph Reynolds. We are all sub 11 seconds over 100 metres,” said the man just days away from his Championship debut.
“It’s literally one hundredths of seconds between us. I’ve beaten Charlie a few times and vice versa.”
Sharples however had no hesitation in proclaiming himself as the most turbo-charged Cherry and White and is in no mood to relinquish his crown in the summer.
He said: “Jonny probably likes the attention and didn’t want to admit to it but I have nothing to lose.
“He won’t want to lose his ‘crown’ but I’ve got the track record for two years in a row now and I’m not afraid to say it.
“I don’t disclose my times, they are top secret, but I have the records for the 400, 100, 40, and 10. I’m keeping them in the bank but I might change my training focus and go for the 1,500 next year.
“But it’s not so much a rivalry, we both want each other to do well. It’s not a question of getting one over each other.
“There’s always competition between us but it’s more a case of supporting each other whether things go well or not so well and pushing each other.
“You’re racing against yourself and all the boys are there watching but you don’t know the times until you are walking back.
“It’s not like all the wings all line up for a straight race – the only time we do that is for the 400m.
“Steph Reynolds ran one of the second-quickest times this year, there’s always a good bit of competition, but the main thing is to better yourself. We get tested twice and you always want to beat yourself.
“I was quicker the second time and I smashed the 100m record out of the park but there was a bit of a tail wind. I already held the record but I knocked another tenth of a record off it and hopefully nobody will ever break it because of that wind.”
Former Olympic champion Marlon Devonish was brought in to harness Gloucester’s explosive power in the summer, and while Sharples’ previous times over 40m rival competitive athletes on paper he insists there is little comparison.
He said: “I’m always interested in watching athletics and did a little bit when I was younger but never went down to a club and trained.
“But it’s great having Marlon Devonish come in. He’s not been in for a while but as the pitches start hardening up I’m sure we will see him again.
“I used it as an opportunity to focus on my physical conditioning, I did a lot of speed and power work and got myself in the best shape I’ve been in in terms of times and tests.
“But the times we get for the 100m etcetera you can’t really compare top athletes because we don’t do it to a gun and so you don’t have to take reaction time into consideration.”
Sharples’ blistering pace has been a major weapon for Gloucester in recent weeks. He grabbed tries against Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers and it was his never-say-die attitude in the chase that laid the starting blocks for Matt Kvesic’s score against Harlequins.
He will line-up against league leaders Northampton Saints today and is well aware of the challenge that lies ahead, but insists the Cherry and Whites must continue their progress.
He said: “It’s been a good run of form for the team and myself.
“We’re building at the moment and, while we’ve not always got the results we wanted, performances have been better which is the main thing going towards the end of the season.
“When things start picking up for the team it reflects well on everyone, especially if you are a wing. When you start playing well, winning games and scoring tries, it’s good from an individual perspective.
“I’ve just been keeping my head down, working hard for everything, and in the last few weeks I’ve been fortunate to get on the end of a couple of things.
“The nice bounce against Sale was the type of opportunity that doesn’t always go your way but it was great that happened.
“Northampton is a really big challenge. The table doesn’t lie and they’re top for a reason. The only team they’ve lost to in the league this season is us so they will be out to prove a point.
“They’re missing a few players, more guys than us, and we’re a team that’s playing well at the minute.
“But there’s no pressure, we can just go out there and play.”
Following Gloucester’s outing at Franklin’s Gardens the Cherry and Whites will have a two-week break, and Sharples will once again become a spectator.
He will be in the crowd as England seek revenge against Wales, and nothing would make the Hong Kong flyer happier than seeing his club mate set the Twickenham turf alight.
Sharples added: “I’ve been watching the games when I can because I want to support Jonny, Billy (Twelvetrees) and Ben (Morgan).
“I always want to see how those guys are getting on but most of their games have clashed with our own. I’m going to Twickenham for the Wales game which will be good. It’s nice to take a backseat, spectate and cheer on the boys.”