Ryan Jones only arrived on the British & Irish Lions tour as a late replacement - but he will return home confirmed among British rugby's most exciting talents.
The Wales number eight flew to New Zealand barely a month ago, having missed out on Sir Clive Woodward's original 45-man squad, after being summoned in place of Scotland's Simon Taylor.
Jones was sensational on his Lions debut against Otago in Dunedin, and then he forced his way into the Test team when Woodward made changes following the 21-3 first Test loss to New Zealand.
He will complete the trip of a lifetime by facing the All Blacks at Eden Park, finally ending a season that also saw him break into Mike Ruddock's Wales squad, win a Six Nations Grand Slam and land the Celtic League title with Neath-Swansea Ospreys.
"It has been fantastic - I keep looking back with a smile on my face," said Jones.
"The best thing is I am just so happy I have taken the opportunity. I could have so easily played no part, or just bit-parts on tour and gone into my shell, but I know in my heart of hearts I've given it everything I could have.
"People like Jonny Wilkinson are guys I have been brought up trying to emulate, so it has been fantastic to be part of it on and off the pitch. It has given me an insight into what is required to become world class.
"The ball is in my court now, so to speak. I came out here with no experience, and it has been a real sharp learning curve for me."
Jones wasted little time impressing the Lions coaching staff, arriving from Wales' North America tour and immediately displaying an appetite for more hard work during the longest season of his career.
"Like anyone else here, I've had a fear of under-performing. I didn't want to let anyone down, myself, my family or anyone who has ever invested time and effort in me," he added.
"But the biggest thing I've learnt is that everyone is different, so whatever works for you is okay. You haven't got to try and prepare like someone else, you prepare your way and if it works, it's fine, carry on doing that."
Jones lines up in an unchanged Lions pack, with the emphasis on a pride-salvaging mission following comprehensive Test match defeats in Christchurch and Wellington.
But the time is looming when he will be able to sit back and properly assess his season of dreams, before doing it all again next term and an enticing battle between Six Nations champions Wales and the All Blacks in Cardiff on November 5.
"I am supposed to be having have four weeks off when we go home. I am going to buy a jetski, it's the one thing I have always wanted since I was a kid, and take it down the Gower coast," he added.
"The break will just give me an opportunity to sit back and reflect, because after the Six Nations win, we won the Celtic League with the Ospreys, then it was on tour with Wales and now out here. It has just been a whirlwind.
"Maybe when the dust settles, I can sit back and realise the magnitude of everything that has gone on.
"I will sit down with a beer somewhere - and have a big smile on my face."