On Monday night Andy Farrell took the first steps on a journey both he and England's head coach Andy Robinson hope will end at the World Cup final in Paris 13 months from now.
Farrell made his rugby union debut at blind-side flanker for the Saracens second XV against Harlequins, fully a year-and-a-half after completing his cross-code switch from Wigan to Vicarage Road.
The deal was part-funded by the Rugby Football Union after Robinson identified Farrell as a player who could play a major part in a successful World Cup defence.
But this was Farrell's first competitive game of rugby in either code since November 2004 - when he captained Great Britain against Australia in the Tri-Nations final.
Farrell missed all of last season after undergoing surgery on a toe injury, and then a prolapsed disc suffered in a car accident.
He has been included in England's elite squad for this season - but after playing his first 60 minutes of rugby union Farrell had no time for thoughts of Test rugby or the World Cup.
"I'll probably wake up in the morning and feel like I've been in another car crash," said Farrell, who scored the first of Saracens' two tries in a 30-12 defeat.
"But it was good to get out there and feel some contact. It's nice to say I've got the first game out of the way.
"Now I can start ironing out the mistakes I made and concentrate on my rugby instead of worrying about my body."
Farrell has been working closely with World Cup winner Richard Hill as he attempts to master the demands of blind-side flanker - a position that does not exist in rugby league.
England's watching forwards coach Mike Ford was pleased with Farrell's contribution.
"He got into a few rucks; he scored a good try, and I heard his voice all the way through," said the former Saracens head coach.
The club's current director of rugby, Alan Gaffney, believes Farrell did enough to be considered for a place on the bench in Sunday's Guinness Premiership clash with Newcastle.
"I was delighted what happened. I thought he read the game particularly well. He will definitely be challenging for the bench - there is no doubt about that," said Gaffney.
Farrell's Saracens team-mates have talked enthusiastically about the impact he made behind the scenes during his time on the sidelines - and Robinson hopes to tap into that experience.
He was not captain against Harlequins tonight (Monday), but it was his voice that could be heard the loudest as he barked instructions and encouragement to his team-mates.
When Saracens fell 12-0 down it was Farrell who delivered the team talk under the posts - and within minutes of the restart he had exchanged passes with hooker Matt Cairns down the left wing to score his first rugby union try.
"He is a natural leader," said Gaffney.
Farrell impressed Gaffney with his reading of the contact area, and concerns over his defensive work from the scrum were quickly ironed out after the game.
"We have just been through it on a piece of paper upstairs," said Gaffney.
"We are not putting too much pressure on Faz. We just want him to learn the game."
England's preparations for the Autumn International series were potentially dealt a further blow as Maro Itoje was forced to undergo an x-ray after Saracens' European victory over Scarlets on Saturday night.