Ryan Jones reflected on his remarkable rise from a rookie powerhouse of a loose forward into the Wales starting side and declared: ''It's been a dream come true''.
When the 23-year-old signed with the Neath-Swansea Ospreys last summer after the Celtic Warriors had folded, his immediate ambitions were limited to playing in the European Cup.
But, just five months on, and Jones will win his fifth cap against France in Paris this weekend, where Wales face the biggest test of their RBS 6 Nations championship credentials.
Jones - all 6ft 5in and nearly 19 stone of him - was preferred to Jonathan Thomas on the blindside as coach Mike Ruddock looks to add some ''extra brawn'' to what is a cultured Welsh back-row.
''It has all been a massive whirlwind experience for me,'' said Jones, who only took up rugby as a 17-year-old.
''I signed for the Ospreys last summer, and my aim was to play Heineken Cup rugby. I had done that by October, and by the time December came I had played international rugby as well.
''There have been a few highs and lows - I was sent off (against Munster), and I've had injuries - but it has exceeded all expectations, a dream come true, really.
''Individually, there is a lot of pressure. Jonathan Thomas played exceptionally well against Italy, so the challenge is there. It's about stepping up to the mark and being counted.
''The French back-row is superb, and it's why you play the game, to play against the best players in the world at the best venues in the biggest competition you can play in, which apart from the World Cup, the Six Nations probably is."
Jones' performances for the Ospreys caught Ruddock's attention and he was awarded a debut cap in the narrow defeat to South Africa last November.
Thomas impressed against Italy two weekends ago and Ruddock conceded he was unfortunate to have been dropped but, up against the likes of Serge Betsen, Wales will need a bit more mongrel at the breakdown.
''Martyn Williams is a great link player, and he can do the groundhog work if he needs to. He's an out and out footballer, as are Michael Owen and Jonathan Thomas,'' said Ruddock.
''I looked at the balance and thought, with the three footballers, I could do with a slightly different approach to this game and perhaps have the option of someone who could provide that bit extra brawn and give us a bit of go forward if we don't get the space we need.
''I can change it at any time, with Jonathan Thomas on the bench, so it is just a slightly different selection. The pressure is on Ryan to perform.''
England Under-18 head coach John Fletcher insists his young side will be better for the experience after beating Italy in the bronze final to round out their 2015 Rugby Europe U18 Championship campaign in style.