Luke Fitzgerald will win his 28th Ireland cap against Scotland this Saturday but it could have been a very different story for the Leinster utility back this season.
Having forced his way into the Ireland team in the autumn of 2013, and featuring as a centre replacement in the now famous 24-22 defeat to New Zealand at Aviva Stadium, Fitzgerald seemed poised to be a fixture in Ireland's 2014 Six Nations squad.
But that was not to be as a groin injury forced the Blackrock alumni into a seven-month period of trouble with the muscle, which meant he was in and out of the Leinster team and a long way from the Ireland set-up.
The medical team at the Santry Sports Surgery Clinic turned things around for Fitzgerald, but he revealed at Carton House today that the injury nearly caused him to hang up his boots for good.
“What was really causing the issue was an underlying structural issue in terms of how I was moving and not knowing that,” said Fitzgerald.
“And when something becomes a recurring problem, when you don’t know the actual underlying issue, it was really frustrating.
“I was really close to saying, ‘I can’t do this any more; I can’t come in every day for two or three sessions and not get any pay out of it.’
“So for me to turn it around and be playing pretty good rugby until the Six Nations and to keep my head down for the last six or seven weeks to be where I am now is fantastic.”
The Leinster man freely admitted that 2014 was something of a career car crash due to the injury and that it was a case of one step forward, two steps back, for much of last season, until the specialists in Santry stepped in.
He said: “It’s been a frustrating period for me personally having come into last year’s Six Nations playing really good rugby and having been selected for the first Test match and the second as well.
"And then for that not to pan out and to spend the next six or seven months just pottering around trying to figure out a groin issue, which started out as something small, which then turned into something big. It was a very frustrating period."
“In around about September last year we decided to go to the ACL clinic out in Santry and got unbelievable results out there pretty quickly and that really turned things around for me going forward and managing an injury like this" - Luke Fitzgerald
There was a question mark over whether the player would ever hit the heights that saw him win a Grand Slam in 2009 and also become a Lion on that year's tour of South Africa. The main reason for that question mark was that the player himself didn't even know the extent or real cause of his groin injury.
“I suppose it was hard to give anyone any clarity because we didn’t have much ourselves to be honest," said the 27-year-old.
“That was pretty evident with the on-off, sporadic displays; we couldn’t really get a handle on it.
“In around about September last year we decided to go to the ACL clinic out in Santry and got unbelievable results out there pretty quickly and that really turned things around for me going forward and managing an injury like this.
“I think with any injury, and I’ve had a few unfortunately, all you really want is a bit of clarity. I think we didn’t really get that until quite late. I wasted an awful lot of times in games, which was very unfortunate for myself and I think for the club as well.
“We did well in the Pro12 but I wasn’t really involved in the Heineken Cup. So they were disappointing aspects from both parties."
While Fitzgerald was struggling he was seeing his Leinster team-mates shine at both international and provincial level, something he admits was not an easy pill to swallow.
“Even at Leinster, with the other guys having played so well, and Dave Kearney coming in and having a great Six Nations was tough to watch - it always is," said the Dubliner.
“It was frustrating and I was kind of saying, ‘I’m getting really far behind here.’ To have turned it around is fantastic.”
As for the Scotland challenge this weekend, Fitzgerald was keen to emphasise that Ireland are focusing on a victory first and foremost and that points difference cannot be their goal from the get-go.
“In a game like this when the championship is coming down to what looks like points difference, I think what’s most important for us to focus on his performance and getting the win first of all," said Fitzgerald.
"I think Scotland are better then what they’ve showed so far.
“They’ve got a lot of dangerous runners and I think they’ve been pretty unlucky so far.
“I think they were talked down against England, but I think they let themselves down because they’re a better team then what they showed.
“I think for us we’re just going to be performance focused this week and concentrate on getting the W [win]."
Indeed, getting a win in Murrayfield is no easy task at any point, and this Saturday is likely to be no different.
“There is a huge amount of respect between both parties. I don’t know of any Irish team who has had an easy win in Murrayfield. They almost beat the All Blacks there last year," said Fitzgerald.
“We’re going to be very process focused early on. We’ll have to play our way into the game and play smart.
“We know how hard they are to break down defensively and I think there’s going to be an awful lot of pressure on us from an attack perspective.
“We’re expecting them to challenge us from a defensive perspective."
"At the end of the day character is revealed through tough times"
Coming back from the edge and living to fight again, is one of the great rewards of life, and this triumph against adversity is what Fitzgerald will carry into Saturday's battle.
“From winning a Grand Slam at the age of 21 to virtually ten appearances, if even that, subsequently is a tough place to have been," said Fitzgerald.
“From dizzying heights to low, lows is tough for any player. I’ve been knocked back a few times. But at the end of the day character is revealed through tough times.
“I’ve had a few of them so hopefully I can now bring what I think is an advantage in terms of personality; having dealt with those tough things, I can bring an advantage when things get tough on the pitch, which they always do in international rugby.”