Danny Care says he will never again take his international career for granted after being given the chance to resurrect his England fortunes by Stuart Lancaster.
The dynamic scrum-half was dropped by Lancaster for the Six Nations after a series of headline-grabbing, alcohol-related off-field incidents.
Lancaster warned him he would have to reform his ways to stand any chance of a recall and adding to his 32 caps.
But after knuckling down in front of the watching Lancaster, Leeds-born Care has been rewarded with a start against South Africa tomorrow in the final Test in Port Elizabeth.
Care, 25, said: “Missing the Six Nations was a hard blow to take but, looking back, it made me re-focus my life and my career a bit.
“It was probably a good thing to realise what I was missing.
“It seems like a long time ago now – I was obviously going through a tough time and I didn’t realise at the time how bad it was.
“I will look back and in a way be glad of what happened.
“It re-focused me and made me realise what it is to be a professional rugby player and what an honour it is to represent your country.
“I definitely took that for granted and that is certainly something I will never do again.
“It has given me the motivation to play well and prove a lot of people wrong and prove a lot of people, who stood by me, right.”
Care finished the domestic season well, helping Harlequins win the the Aviva Premiership.
He was one of the stand-out performers in last week’s tour match against the Southern Barbarians in Kimberley and his chance to re-establish himself has been aided by the shoulder injury that ended Ben Youngs’s tour.
Care said: “I was gutted for Youngsy.
“We get on well. It is unfortunate for him, but it is a chance for me to get back in there and show what I can do.”
Lancaster said: “Danny and I go back a long way, back to the Leeds academy.
“It is nice to finally coach him again in the starting team and I am looking forward to seeing him perform.
“He had a broad grin on his face when I told him. He is a competitive player and he knows he is in a competitive position with Ben Youngs and Lee Dickson both playing well in the Six Nations.
“I know he was desperately disappointed not to make the first Test or be on the bench, but I said to him he had to work hard and earn the right to get into the team. I feel he has done that.”