David Wallace insists he paid little attention to the growing calls for his Ireland recall, but never gave up hope of resuming his Test career.
Wallace won the last of his 22 caps in Japan seven months ago but has not been an Ireland regular since 2002, the year of his most recent Six Nations appearance.
The 29-year-old flanker was overlooked for the November series by coach Eddie O'Sullivan on the grounds he was not playing regularly for Munster when the autumn squad was picked.
O'Sullivan's decision's drew some criticism as Wallace capitalised on an injury to main rival Alan Quinlan and produced a string of first class displays.
He carried that form into the later pool games of the European Cup and the calls for his return could no longer be ignored with O'Sullivan handing him the number seven jersey for Italy on Saturday.
"It's been a difficult couple of years in terms of form and selection," said Wallace.
"While I never gave up hope of getting back into the Ireland team, I knew it would take a lot of hard work to do that.
"There were a couple of years when I wasn't happy with my form, but I couldn't say why I wasn't playing as well as I would have liked.
"Now I feel like I'm back to where I was when I started playing for Ireland, but maybe with a little bit more experience under my belt.
"I've done quite well this season. Now I need to keep my head down and continue with this sort of form.
"The support for my recall has been great but you can become distracted by people saying you should be in when really you should be asking why aren't you being selected.
"You can't afford to buy into the hype."
Wallace's career stalled when surgery on a troublesome shoulder in 2002 developed complications with the discovery of a cyst and it was only last season that he was able to hit full throttle once again.
"It's hard to know exactly how much an injury like that affects you," he said.
"But when I originally damaged it and continued to play not knowing how serious it was, my form was dropping the whole time.
"When I came back it was difficult to regain the form I had shown before, but that changed halfway through last season."