Graham Rowntree's 50th cap, which he collects against France at Twickenham on Sunday, looked an unlikely milestone when he was left out of England's World Cup-winning squad for the finals in 2003.
But the Leicester prop never gave up on his international career despite being overlooked by Sir Clive Woodward for English rugby's biggest triumph.
Rowntree, who has battled his way back with some outstanding performances for the resurgent Tigers, insisted: ''It was always an aim of mine.
''Not being involved in the World Cup did not dent my appetite for wanting to play for England. It only increased it and, luckily, I was playing for a good club.''
His displays for Leicester, rather than Woodward's succession by his assistant Andy Robinson, are the reasons to which Rowntree attributes his comeback from the international wilderness this season.
''Robbo's been involved for five years so he has always had a big influence in who was playing in the front row. You cannot say that him becoming manager has been that influential in me getting back in the team. I think playing well with Leicester has,'' he said.
The half century of caps has crept up on Rowntree, who said: ''I have not considered it much. I have been in and out so many times, to get there is satisfying but I never really had it as a milestone in my own mind. But now it has come, fantastic.
''I am immensely proud to be running out for my country for the 50th time, at home, against an opposition I love playing against, one I have got the utmost respect for. The toughest games you can play - club or international - are against the French.''
Winning his 50th cap, at the age of 33, puts Jason Leonard's world record 114 international appearances in the front row into even greater perspective.
''I will be impressed when I get to whatever he's on,'' joked Rowntree, who recalled: ''I played in Jason's 50th, he was the captain when we played Argentina in '96 and he got his try. It took Jason six years - it has taken me 10 years.''
But for Rowntree, winning tomorrow's game is the crucial thing for an England team humbled by Wales in Cardiff in last week's RBS 6 Nations opener.
''It is a delight to be back in again after a disappointing game last week,'' he said as he refused to blame the Millennium Stadium's disintegrating playing surface for putting the skids under the England pack.
''It would be easy for us to clutch for excuses for our non-performance and our non-domination in the forwards - but I am not surprised the contractors have had the push.
''It was hard work. When we had a bit of a squeeze on your feet were literally disappearing under you. But that is not an excuse, that is not why we lost,'' he said.
Rowntree believes the familiarity of the Leicester contingent can help England put things right.
Only Julian White's injury has prevented Tigers from having five members of the pack, with Rowntree, Ben Kay and the recalled Lewis Moody and Martin Corry all playing in front of Leicester's young scrum-half Harry Ellis in his first England start.
''It certainly paid off in the Autumn series in the win against South Africa and I think it always helps,'' said Rowntree, who will be equally at home playing on the opposite side of the front row to Gloucester's Phil Vickery, called up to replace White.
''Disappointment for White - but he has been soldiering on with injuries for a long time and I think it has just got the better of him and he needs a bit of a break.
''Delighted to be back playing with Phil Vickery. I have a lot of admiration for him, for a young man he has done it all and he is a big influence and a big settling factor around the place,'' he said.
England and France, who struggled to beat Scotland in Paris last weekend, both have a lot to prove.
''I am sure France are feeling the same as us but I don't think England can play as badly again.
''Those of us lucky enough to be picked again have always got next week to put things right and we are going to do that,'' added a defiant Rowntree, something of an expert in bouncing back.
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