All the hard work finally paid off for Paddy Wallace on Sunday afternoon as he got to strut his stuff for the full eighty minutes of a Test match.
With his only previous cap against South Africa lasting just two minutes, Wallace understandably cut a nervous figure before the start of Ireland's Guinness Autumn Series encounter with the Pacific Islanders.
But the 27-year-old need not have worried as his innate footballing ability, broken-field sniping and pinpoint place-kicking allowed him fit right in at Lansdowne Road.
Thanks to a well-worked try and a near flawless kicking display - he was successful with nine out of his 11 kicks at goal - the Ballymena clubman tallied up 26 points by the finish, proving he is a real option for Ireland at number 10.
After taking the plaudits in his first start and deservedly claiming the man-of-the-match award, Wallace admitted: "I was happy with just about all aspects of my game and was pleased to finish with 26 points.
"I'm glad my kicking was good. Whenever I was in camp over the past few weeks I've worked hard with our kicking coach Mark Tainton. Fortunately, that paid off.
"My try came from some nice work from Strings (Peter Stringer) - I just got on to the end of a good pass from him.
"I got my hands on the ball early which was what I was hoping for, given it was my first full start.
"Getting comfortable early was a big thing. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I'd be but that was because I got my hands on the ball early," he added.
"It was a job well done. The whole series has gone well for Ireland."
Wallace was quick to single out Shane Horgan and Brian O'Driscoll, who played outside him at 12 and 13, for special praise.
"I'm coming into a winning team with a lot of confidence, so it was easy for me with Shane (Horgan) and Brian (O'Driscoll) taking a lot of pressure off me - I was lucky to have them today.
"It was also great to be involved in the send-off to Lansdowne Road. These are memories I'll cherish. It was very emotional out there at the end and I just felt privileged to be part of it."
It has been a long road for Wallace - it was 2002 when he was first called into an Irish senior squad and the following year saw him go uncapped at the World Cup - but after getting himself fully-fit and making an authoritative first start, he is no longer in the shadows at international level.
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