France scrum-half Pierre Mignoni believes he now has the maturity to play at international level after being chosen by coach Bernard Laporte to start the RBS 6 Nations opener against Scotland on Saturday.
The 27-year-old Clermont Auvergne captain made his debut in 1997 against Romania, earning 13 caps until 2002, but he never managed to impose his style with Les Bleus.
Preferred over the younger Dimitri Yachvili for the Scotland match at the Stade de France, Mignoni claims he has never been better prepared, mentally and physically.
He hopes to become the inspirational leader Les Bleus missed last autumn when they beat Australia but lost to Argentina and New Zealand.
"I have gained a new dimension, thanks to my age, my experience and my role with Clermont Auvergne," said Mignoni.
"I think I have reached a new level in my career and in my game. I have improved, but it's difficult to have all the qualities to play in such a complicated position.
"You need a certain maturity which I didn't have when I was younger."
Mignoni believes he was too young to impose himself at international level when he made his France debut at the age of 20.
"It's hard for a young player to have the composure and the competence to play as a scrum-half," he said.
"I certainly did not have that at the time.
"But I don't think playing for France at such a young age did me any harm. On the contrary it helped me progress, even if I did not stay long.
"It's hard to impose one's style in the long term in a team like that.
"But I have worked hard in recent years. I feel I am a leader now. I feel responsible on the pitch.
"In my club I am the captain and leader of my group. With France I hope to become a leader of the game."
Mignoni also admitted the difficulties and poor results at Clermont Auvergne this campaign have sharpened his focus.
"It's been tough but I've always known my qualities," he said.
"It's been difficult to work at Clermont but I wanted to get out of the bad situation, that's why I push myself forward.
"The most important is that we are going to get out of trouble. I now feel stronger and more mature thanks to all we've been through."
Mignoni, who will be paired with Castres fly-half Yann Delaigue on Saturday, knows the importance of grabbing the chance to do well, two years away from the 2007 World Cup in France.
"Of course I think about 2007, I really want to play at the World Cup but there will be so many matches before," he added.
"I just want to take things as they come and not get too focused on an objective which remains far away."
Assistant coach Richie Murphy has refused to rule any Ireland player out ahead of their RBS 6 Nations clash with France this weekend after Leinster back Fergus McFadden was called up to the squad as cover.