Head coach Borthwick had broken the bad news in jarringly blunt circumstances, also telling May he would not play in that Saturday’s warm-up Test against Wales in Cardiff.
May stomped off wondering to himself why he was even still training with England at their Pennyhill Park centre in Bagshot.
After banging about some weights for 10 minutes though, May asked for another chat with head coach Borthwick – and quickly shifted his mindset.
This was Monday, July 31, at which point the Gloucester wing was suddenly very much on the outside looking in as far as the World Cup was concerned. Jump forward to the end of August, and May slotted back in after Anthony Watson damaged his calf.
Now the 33-year-old is relishing every moment with England in France, despite missing home life wife Sophie and new-born son Jaxon.
“The truth is that on the Monday before Wales he spoke to me and said, ‘as it currently stands, you’re not playing at the weekend and aren’t in the 33’,” said May.
“That got my money out, I’ll be honest. I was like, ‘well what the hell am I doing here this week?’ I felt like that in that moment. I’m not going and I’m not playing at the weekend so why the hell am I here?
“I went to the gym for 10 minutes, and then stomped back to him and said I need another chat.
“I said, ‘I’m running this by you because maybe I don’t want to be here this week, because, why am I here? I’ve got my son at home’.
“He said he didn’t want me to go home because I am next in and it doesn’t look good if you quit now and then have to be called back in.
“So I was like, ‘fair enough’, that was a good point. And I’d done this much time now, just calm down, and plough on with it. But that was my initial response.
“I was disappointed because I expressed in week one I wanted a game and an opportunity to play. It looked like I wasn’t going to get that and I felt I’d worked hard and trained well, I really wanted it.
“There’s no right or wrong to tell somebody they’re not in the team and I understand that from Steve’s part. I reacted angrily but rationally. I didn’t scream and shout at him. I’m glad I stayed and then the opportunity came to stay and train, and then I calmed down.”
England will face an Argentina side ranked above them in Saturday’s World Cup opener in Marseille. The bookies have been struggling to decide who to install as favourites for the tie, all but hedging their own bets.
May expects the general public to regard England as underdogs – and the thoughtful, insightful speedster insisted he is entirely comfortable with the assessment.
“We went into the last World Cup with a lot of results behind us and a lot of preparation behind us,” said May.
“We knew exactly what we were. We pretty much knew what the team was, for a start. There was a lot more certainty. This time, we’re definitely underdogs.
“We’re still finding our way, we’re still finding our team, we’re still discovering ourselves.
“All you can do is flip it to make it a positive. There are positives of being in this situation, in that people have written us off, the expectation is low.
“That’s quite refreshing in some ways because we know we can be a lot better than we have been. We do know we’ve got good players and we know we can be a good side.
“I think people would think they’re favourites for this game. I think people look at us as underdogs and I think people have written us off a little bit.
“We’re embracing that within this group and paying as much attention as each person wants to but ultimately focusing on what we’ve got to do, getting tighter as a group and believing a bit more each day.”