The on-field rehabilitation of Jonny Wilkinson continued yesterday when he was named in the British & Irish Lions team for their only warm-up match before they go on tour to New Zealand.
Wilkinson will start his first international since the 2003 World Cup final when Sir Clive Woodward's Lions take on Argentina at the Millennium Stadium on Monday and looks to be making a perfectly timed bid for the No 10 shirt in the Test series with the All Blacks.
It is the latest stage in a frantic attempted comeback that began in April following a tortuous run of injuries stemming from December 2003 when he damaged a shoulder in a league match against Northampton.
Since then he has been blighted by knee, neck and bicep problems and returned to action only five weeks ago in a substitute appearance against the Saints.
But he has played in Newcastle's last two matches and has just about proved himself fit enough to take part in Monday's match after being left out of the original Lions squad.
Woodward has broken with tradition by giving Wilkinson extra time to make the tour but the extent of his value to the former England coach's plans is clearly manifested by the fact that he has been handed the vice-captaincy for the match in Cardiff.
The honour of leading the Lions out for a first match on home soil goes to Wales skipper Michael Owen in a XV that has the distinct look of second-string about it.
"Jonny is in the team on merit," Woodward said yesterday. "He is fully fit and the last game he played, he played particularly well. He was very keen to play the opening game and I will be delighted to see him out there."
Woodward went on to laud the role Owen played in securing the Principality's first grand slam since the 1970s, saying: "I spoke to him last night and it took him less than 0.1 seconds to accept that role. He had a fantastic Six Nations and reflects why Wales were successful.
"It is a huge honour to captain the Lions at any time but this will be a very special occasion for Michael to captain the Lions in this game in Cardiff. I have no doubt he will acquit himself well." Tour captain Brian O'Driscoll has been left out as has Leicester flanker Neil Back who has been cited after an incident involving Joe Worsley in last weekend's Premiership final.
Back will find out today if he is to be banned but Woodward removed the uncertainty over the situation by naming Scotland's Simon Taylor and England's Lewis Moody in the back row.
Ireland's Gordon D'Arcy will partner Ollie Smith in the centres with Shane Williams and Denis Hickie on the wings and Geordan Murphy at fullback.
Graham Rowntree, Shane Byrne and John Hayes make up the front row with Malcolm O'Kelly and Danny Grewcock the locks.
Woodward said: "Just hearing the names being read out gives me a real sense that the tour is underway. I see Monday's game as a massive game but also the over-riding aim is victory over New Zealand in a few weeks' time.
"I am delighted to be playing this fixture. I have no doubt this will be a very, very stern test for what is an outstanding Lions team.
"There is no doubt we have the makings of a great Lions team. If we get things right off the field we will get it right on the field.
"We know the size of the challenge. The Lions have won one Test series in ten attempts and that makes it even more exciting.
"If we are to go and make history we have to be the best-prepared, we have to get the planning exactly right. We have to be the besttrained and we have to put in the best support teams the Lions have ever had."
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: G Murphy (Ire); D Hickie (Ire), O Smith (Eng), G D'Arcy (Ire), S Williams (Wales), J Wilkinson (Eng), G Cooper (Wales); G Rowntree (Eng), S Byrne (Ire), J Hayes (Munster), M O'Kelly (Ire), D Grewcock (Eng), S Taylor (Sc), L Moody (Eng), M Owen (Wales, capt). Replacements: S Thompson (Eng), J White (Eng), D O'Callaghan (Ire), M Corry (Eng), C Cusiter (Sc), R O'Gara (Ire), S Horgan (Ire).