Gareth Cooper has been cast in a support role throughout much of his Test career - but he could end 2008 as Wales' headline act.
The reigning RBS 6 Nations champions have moved heaven and earth just to get Cooper on the Millennium Stadium pitch against Australia tomorrow.
And the 29-year-old knows he can cash in by confirming his current status as Wales’ premier scrum-half - less than five months before the Lions squad for South Africa is announced.
Cooper had expected to be on Guinness Premiership duty for Gloucester in tomorrow’s Kingsholm appointment with Northampton.
He did not imagine three of the British game’s most high-powered officials - Welsh Rugby Union group chief executive Roger Lewis, Rugby Football Union chairman Martyn Thomas and Gloucester boss Tom Walkinshaw - would contribute towards him winning his 40th cap.
Wales’ fourth November Test falls outside the International Rugby Board’s autumn window, so Gloucester had first call on his services this weekend.
With Dwayne Peel required by Sale Sharks, it could have meant Wales fielding inexperienced Scarlets number nine Martin Roberts against the Wallabies - and star wing Shane Williams possibly providing back-up.
Gloucester though, sanctioned Cooper’s release, and he will make his third start of the month after impressing in defeats against world champions South Africa and world ranking leaders New Zealand.
“I was at training with Gloucester on Monday morning, and I had a phone call from (Wales team manager) Alan Phillips saying I was expected back with the international squad,” he said.
“Dean Ryan (Gloucester head coach) then told me I had been released to play for Wales.
“As far as I was concerned, I was playing for Gloucester. When I heard the news, it was pretty awesome, to be honest.”
It might have taken him the best part of five years, but Cooper has re-established himself in Wales’ number nine shirt, edging ahead of Peel, Roberts and injured Ospreys ace Mike Phillips.
He ended the 2003 World Cup as number one, but Cooper has started just 14 of Wales’ subsequent 59 Test matches, while Peel - and latterly, Phillips - took centre-stage.
Cooper’s input to the Six Nations title, Grand Slam-winning campaigns of 2005 and 2008 was restricted to a mere three appearances off the bench three years ago against England, Italy and France.
It is no surprise then, that he relishes his present position.
“It has been great to get the number nine shirt back and have a run of games,” he added.
“I’ve felt I have improved with each game I have played.
“I really enjoyed the summer tour to South Africa, gaining a lot of confidence from the first Test and then having a good second Test.
“That has been the springboard, really, to improve my performances for Gloucester and Wales.
“It’s great to have competition for places, whether it’s for the international side or your club side.
“You need to be forced to play well each week, and that extra pressure on you drives you to perform well.”