Pat Sanderson will finally face Australia tomorrow, more than seven years after illness rescued him from the most humiliating experience in English Test history.
While England were being battered 76-0 at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium by an Australian side which would win the World Cup less than 18 months later, Sanderson was back in a largely deserted team hotel trying to shake off tonsillitis.
He should have made his international debut that night, just a few days before turning 21, on what has become known as England's 'tour from hell'.
The call from head coach Clive Woodward eventually came a fortnight later against New Zealand in Dunedin, but apart from the 2001 North America trip when he made three appearances as a replacement, Sanderson has remained on the periphery.
This weekend's Cook Cup clash will represent a first Test start at Twickenham and is also a glowing reward for the patience, perseverance and punishing commitment Sanderson has shown amid some crushing career disappointments.
The latest of those setbacks came barely three months ago when England boss Andy Robinson omitted him from his 45-man elite national squad, despite Sanderson captaining a successful Churchill Cup mission in Canada just weeks earlier. Form and fitness did not leave the ex- Harlequin, though, and Worcester's continuing Premiership excellence, with Sanderson as leader, eventually brought England squad - and now first XV - recognition.
Sanderson has experienced enough career highs and lows not to look beyond tomorrow, but few people could argue that he does not deserve the England number six shirt on merit.
"I don't think you ever write off your England career," he said. "It was just a question of focusing on what was important, which were my performances at the weekend.
"The formula to getting in the England side, difficult as that is, is quite a simple one - playing well for your club. That is the reason you get looked at, so I had to get my head down, play well for my club and something would hopefully come of it, and it did." Wasps flanker Joe Worsley's knee injury effectively opened the England door for Sanderson, but he might have knocked it down anyway such has been his level of consistency for Worcester following their Premiership arrival last year.
"You have always got to look to improve," added Sanderson. "I have still got improvements to make from the level I am at now.
"The minute you think you haven't got to improve is when someone comes up behind you and takes your spot. I think only half the job is done, staying there is the other half.
"I expect it to be difficult, regardless of whether Joe is fit or not. There are an awful lot of good players in this country and you have to play well week in, week out to stay where you are."
Sanderson just about allows himself a nostalgic return to events in 1998, when England embarked on a ludicrously ill-conceived tour which featured games - and defeats - against Australia, New Zealand (twice), South Africa, New Zealand A, New Zealand Maori and a New Zealand Academy XV.
There was just no escape for a woefully inexperienced squad - remember names like Dominic Chapman, Ben Sturnham, Spencer Brown, Steve Ravenscroft and Stuart Potter? - although it should also be remembered that individuals such as Jonny Wilkinson and Phil Vickery cut their teeth during that trip.
"1998 was a long time ago," said Sanderson. "But the tour probably seemed a lot worse from the outside than the inside.
"We were a reasonably tight bunch of players, and probably our best performance was the last game against South Africa. I was a young boy then, I was barely 20 years old, and a lot has happened since."
Only Vickery and Bath lock Danny Grewcock survive from England's 1998 starting line-up against Australia, and while the scoreline will be somewhat different seven years on, Sanderson expects another fearsome challenge despite the Wallabies losing their last six Tests.