Jonny Wilkinson is determined to make the most of a start against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, as he bids to become England's first-choice flyhalf at the World Cup.
Wilkinson has replaced former understudy Tony Flood in the side for what will be England's last warm-up match before they head to New Zealand and a tilt at a third successive World Cup final appearance.
And with manager Martin Johnson having always insisted he would pick his strongest available team for the trip to Lansdowne Road, it appears Wilkinson is in line to be England's starting flyhalf for their opening World Cup match against Argentina on September 10.
Wilkinson, the drop-goal hero of England's 2003 World Cup final win against Australia in Sydney, has spent much of his past 18 months as a Test player on the bench, backing-up Flood.
But England's record points scorer will wear the No.10 shirt in Dublin this weekend in a team showing six changes from the one that lost the second of two warm-up matches against Wales by 19-9 in Cardiff a fortnight ago.
And Wilkinson believes he is a better player for the time he has spent among the replacements.
"It is a massive pleasure [starting] and it is ultimately what you are after," Wilkinson told reporters at England's training base.
"The experience of being on the bench and having to react to that has been a massive learning one for me," added Wilkinson, whose last start in a full-strength England side was the 15-15 draw with Scotland in March 2010.
"I have benefited hugely from it.
"At the time I probably would have wanted to be in a different role and I may not have been the happiest with it but what I learned - in terms of coming into late parts of games, needing to try and find solutions or hold onto situations - was invaluable.
"I am really pleased with that and I am trying to apply all that and integrate it into a performance now that will be from the first whistle."
Wilkinson's career since 2003 has been interrupted by numerous injury setbacks and, having made his name with English Premiership side Newcastle, he joined French club Toulon two years ago.
"I always like to think that I am on a path of continuous improvement and that has always been hugely important to me," said Wilkinson.
"I have had some things in the way which I have had to deal with in terms of injuries and moving clubs which have been big positives as well. I have tried to adapt and I think I have done that."
Yet for all his injury setbacks, the 32-year-old Wilkinson is heading into his fourth World Cup as one of the fittest members of this England squad after leading the way in various training ground tests.
"Jonny's ahead of everybody by about 10 seconds. He just doesn't drop off his fitness," said England wing Chris Ashton. "I don't know how he does it."
But Johnson, who as well as captaining Wilkinson in the team that won the 2003 World Cup played in the same England team as him at the 1999 edition, said: "That is what he is about.
"However many Test matches he has played or whatever he has done, he is still out there working harder than anyone to be better - whether it is fitness, kicking, tackling, defending, attacking.
"That is why he is such a great example to everybody.
"He has played very well. He deserves this game to start. We think it is the right call for them (Wilkinson and Flood) to swap round and we don't miss a beat."
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