By Andy Elliott
Gone was the dithering with the ball in hand, the indecisiveness fielding kicks and poor finishing that had resulted in May being dropped from the England team during this year’s Six Nations. In their place was a player full of beans, constantly looking for work and injecting some real pace into the back-line.
The 25-year-old scored one excellent try – his fourth in 14 Tests – from Alex Goode’s precision chip in the second half and helped to set up another for his fellow wing Anthony Watson in the first, coming into the line at speed before producing a neat offload in the tackle to put the Bath man in at the corner.
It was a display that reminded people of the galloping talent who had scorched past the All Blacks’ world-class outside-centre Conrad Smith and full-back Israel Dagg to score a try that lit up Twickenham in last year’s 24-21 loss to New Zealand.
It also fully justified England head coach Stuart Lancaster comment before the World Cup warm-up game against France that the Gloucester wing had been the stand-out player in this summer’s training camps.
The doubters who questioned Lancaster’s decision to send home Chris Ashton, Marland Yarde and Semesa Rokoduguni early will now have to pour themselves a big glass of shut-up juice.
May admitted after the 19-14 victory over the French that he felt he had “slayed a demon”.
“There hasn’t been a day go by when I haven’t thought back to being dropped,” said May. “I was pretty down for the best part of a month after it happened.
“But I couldn’t feel sorry for myself because I was desperate to get back in.
“Experiences like that can break you or they can make you stronger – and I definitely played some of my best rugby for Gloucester of the back of being dropped.
“I have been working my **** off to get another opportunity and I’m pleased to have been able to put it right.
“But it’s time to close that chapter now and look forward.”
With Watson dotting down twice and Goode producing an assured display at full-back, England’s back three were a potent unit. Throw Mike Brown, Jack Nowell and – maybe – Danny Cipriani into the mix and suddenly the cupboard that had looked decidedly bare is now packed with goods.
The key now will be to see how May performs against a team who have better wings than France, as Brice Dulin and Sofiane Guitone were dire.
But, with a World Cup squad place all but guaranteed and his confidence restored, May now appears ready to illuminate Twickenham on a more regular basis.