Relieved England hopeful Alex Brown will return to action in Gloucester's European Challenge Cup clash with Toulon after avoiding neck surgery that could have destroyed his season.
The Gloucester lock missed England's entire autumn Test series, just when he appeared in pole position to win a first cap last month against Australia.
A damaged disc in his neck wrecked those chances, allowing Bath's Steve Borthwick an opportunity that he grasped with both hands and forged an outstanding second-row partnership alongside club colleague Danny Grewcock for the Australia and New Zealand games.
Brown, who will certainly feature among England boss Andy Robinson's RBS 6 Nations plans, sets out on the comeback trail when his side visit Toulon in Pool Three on Saturday.
"I am just really pleased the rehab has gone so well," he said. "There was a very real possibility - it was a 50-50 situation that I might have required an operation, but we opted for the natural process and it has paid off.
"My initial aim was to be fit for the Wasps Premiership game on Boxing Day, but if I can get 40 minutes here and 40 minutes there, then that will stand me in good stead.
"Dean Ryan (Gloucester coach) has been very relaxed about the situation, and has not put any extra pressure on me to get back because he wanted to make sure I was right.
"Nothing replicates the contact situation you face in a match, but I am confident everything will be okay."