England hero Jonny Wilkinson insists his passion for rugby remains undiminished after declaring himself fit for the start of the season.
Wilkinson was ruled out of the ill-fated summer tour to New Zealand because of a shoulder problem and underwent successful surgery in May.
The 29-year-old has targeted the Guinness Premiership opener against Sale on September 7 for his comeback, despite his lack of activity during pre-season.
And in news that will lift the spirits of English rugby, he insists his competitive fires burn as fiercely as ever despite an injury-ravaged four years.
"The plan is to play in the first game of the season. I don't know my involvement because I won't have played pre-season, but that's the plan," he said.
"I don't question that I've always had the desire. That's the animal I am. I can't question that.
"I said some time ago about practice. It's not a conscious choice any more - it's something I know that it's part of my life and I will do it.
"The difficult one will be telling myself to give up, certainly not wondering whether now is the time.
"Maybe someone will have to come in there and decide for me."
Wilkinson became Test rugby's record points scorer during this year's RBS 6 Nations but was also dropped for the first time in his career.
Rising star Danny Cipriani was preferred at fly-half and although the World Cup winner stepped off the bench to win his 70th cap against Ireland, he had clearly slipped below his rival in the pecking order.
But going under the surgeon's knife to correct his troublesome shoulder has allowed him to start the new season in a positive frame of mind.
"My shoulder is really good. I don't know when it started feeling bad - I think I was getting some pain pre-World Cup in the Six Nations 2003," he said.
"My neck took control after that and I've not really played since. So once I strung some games together there was obviously a problem.
"The shoulder problem has been there five years. It was quite a long way gone so it was a great idea to get it done.
"When I was playing in some games I felt like I had no problem but in others I was waking up really struggling.
"It was tough to keep going so when there was an opportunity to get it done in the summer I took it.
"It had degenerated quite a lot so it needed quite a bit of sorting out. I was told I'd be out for four months and at the moment I'm on schedule."
Wilkinson was reunited with World Cup winning captain and new England manager Martin Johnson during this week's training camp.
After a disastrous four years for English rugby, optimism has returned to Twickenham and Wilkinson admits Johnson brings with him a presence that can only be beneficial.
"His fear factor is a good thing. I feared him for about six years of playing with him! It was about that long before I spoke to him," he said.
"Having got to know him you still have that respect and awe for him. So things do not change.
"Some of the younger guys have asked what it's like having a guy you played with for so long in that position.
"He's here to manage and do his thing. He was a very supportive person to me during 2003 when things were going badly."