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Shaw has been in and out of the national squad for so long that when he first got there, Manchester United had still to win their first League title since the Sixties.
Once there, he found out the hard way that the comparatively short step from the squad to the team can take years.
England kept him waiting from 1993 until late 1996 and Jack Rowell had succeeded Geoff Cooke as manager when Shaw finally made his bow in the world’s oldest annual international championship, against Scotland at Twickenham on February 1, 1997 at the start of Will Carling’s last season.
If he makes it against Wales at the Millennium Stadium for the long-awaited grand opening of the 2011 tournament on the first Friday of February, Shaw will have joined Gareth Llewellyn as the only other forward whose championship career spanned 14 years.
The Welsh lock began against England in February 1990 and finished against Italy in 2004.
Of all the greats, only Mike Gibson lasted longer.
The incomparable Ulsterman appeared in fifteen consecutive seasons from the mid-Sixties to the end of the Seventies, a test of endurance which none of his revered contemporaries headed by Gareth Edwards came close to matching.
That Shaw has stood the test of time despite a series of blows severe enough to have convinced a lesser man to call it quits makes his achievement all the more commendable.
Sir Clive Woodward left him out of four of his first five championships in charge, having convinced himself that Johnson and Shaw were too similar, not least as specialist front-jumpers, to justify picking both.
For three whole years under Woodward, England managed without their 20-stone Wasp.
It was just as well that the player’s patience has never known any bounds and that he has kept rolling back the years so successfully that the RFU once made him out to be even older than he actually was before correcting the error over his date of birth which had unwittingly been advanced by nine months.
He turned 37 last September, having long lost count of the number of times he has been in and out of the England XV.
Not even the ultimate accolade as man-of-the-match against Wales in Cardiff in August 2003 could save Shaw from the crushing double whammy of being dropped not just from the team but the squad for the English World Cup to beat all World Cups, in Australia in 2003.
In a classic piece of Shaw under-statement, he described it as ‘a little bit of a surprise.’
No setback, however harsh, has ever made him stop and think about giving up on England no matter how many times they gave every impression of having given up on him.
The Lions have been mighty grateful for his stoicism, never more so than during the second Test of the last South African series in Pretoria.
Shaw’s stupendous performance, in the tight and the loose, earned him a permanent place in Lions folklore, one which puts him right up there amongst the second row greats alongside the Johnsons, the WillIe John McBrides and the Gordon Browns.
Yet when England achieved their last Grand Slam eight long seasons ago, Shaw found himself surplus to requirements behind Johnson, Ben Kay and Danny Grewcock.
That put him far enough down the pecking order to make the bench just once throughout the 2003 tournament and manage the sum total of 22 minutes’ game-time as Kay’s temporary substitute against Italy at Twickenham.
Should England decide they can afford to turn up in Cardiff without him at the start of what has all the makings of the most open championship for years, nobody in Wales will be complaining.
Shaw’s Five Nations debut, Twickenham, February 1, 1997:
England 41, Scotland 13.
England: T Stimpson (Newcastle); J Sleightholme (Bath), W Carling (Harlequins), P de Glanville,capt. (Bath), T Underwood (Newcastle); P Grayson (Northampton) , A Gomarsall (Wasps); G Rowntree (Leicester), M Regan (Bristol), J Leonard (Harlequins); M Johnson (Leicester), S Shaw (Bristol); L Dallaglio (Wasps), T Rodber (Northampton), R Hill (Saracens).
Scotland: R Shepherd (Melrose); D Stark (Melrose), T Stanger (Hawick), B Ericksson (London Scottish), K Logan (Stirling County); G Townsend (Northampton), B Redpath (Melrose); T Smith (Watsonians), D Ellis (Currie), M Stewart (Northampton); D Weir (Newcastle), A Reed (Wasps); P Walton (Newcastle), R Wainwright, capt (Watsonians), I Smith (Gloucester).