Varndell was taught a "brutal lesson" by Wallabies winger Lote Tuqiri about what it would take to succeed at the highest level.
The learning did not end on his return home either. The experience of being bullied and bashed by Tuqiri had crushed his confidence and Leicester sent Varndell out on loan to division one club Bedford.
Sitting in England's Christchurch hotel as he gears up to face the All Blacks for the first time in his career, Varndell reflected on those experienced as being invaluable.
"Things did happen very quickly for me. At 19, I think it went to my head a bit. I hit the ground with a thump in Australia," Varndell recalled.
"Tuqiri scalded me. It wasn't very pleasant. But the lowest point was being loaned out to a division one club just a month and a half after an England tour.
"It was pretty embarrassing. I was there for a couple of weeks and then got injured. My last game for Bedford was Waterloo away. It was absolutely brutal. I don't think there were even 300 people there.
"Leicester thought I needed a kick up the backside and that is what I got.
"I had been put on the international stage and I didn't perform. With all the other wingers coming through I did think my chance had come and gone.
"But I am lucky enough to get the opportunity again and it is not an opportunity I am going to waste.
"I wouldn't say it that learning curve was enjoyable but it was an experience I had to go through."
Varndell puts much of his improvement down to Marcelo Loffreda, the Argentinian who was sacked after just eight months as Leicester coach despite leading them to two finals last season.
By the end of the season he had nailed down a place in the team and it was his brilliant solo try which sealed Leicester a late victory over Harlequins and an unexpected place in the Premiership semi-finals.
"That was probably the high-point," he said.
"Getting back in the tries at Leicester has been great for me. It hasn't been that successful a season for the club but personally I have taken a lot out of it and it will stand me in good stead for this weekend.
"Marcelo was great for me. My defence and positioning has improved, my kicking game and my running game. Marcelo got me working on my concentration and it is a shame he has gone.
"I have adapted my game and I think I have become a better player."
Varndell was not originally selected for the senior tour after being edged out by Topsy Ojo but he won a late call-up when Paul Sackey pulled out.