Centre Wesley Fofana will make his international debut for France in their Six Nations opener against Italy on Saturday, after what he admits has been a slow maturing process.
While others like his Clermont club-mate Morgan Parra and Mathieu Bastareaud, who were blooded at international level a few years ago after coming through the national training centre in their teens, Fofana has taken his time to blossom.
He readily concedes that a promising junior footballing career - where he played alongside the likes of Paris Saint-Germain winger Jeremy Menez - put him in two minds.
He also says that he lacked confidence about whether he could make it at the top level after he first played rugby at school.
"At the time, when I was undergoing training at Marcoussis, I almost gave rugby up," he admitted after he was named in the starting line-up to play Italy.
"I was a little bit too nonchalant. It was very strict, very rigorous and I really didn't have the hunger to pursue a professional career in the sport.
"I asked myself: 'Why not stop?' However, the physical trainer of the French youth training group (Jean-Luc Arnaud) said to me: 'Are you crazy? No, do not stop.'
"So I carried on and I've done well, I think," he added with a smile.
However, he admits that his enthusiasm for playing for the national side had also not been a priority when he was growing up.
"Unlike my contemporaries, it wasn't a dream of mine to play for France at rugby," he said.
"I didn't think about it a lot when I was small. It only dawned on me later, when I arrived at Clermont (in 2008) and I realised that I was now a professional player.
"I think that I matured more slowly than some of my generation."
While there were never any doubts about his pace and devastating side-steps, he lacked the work ethic until Clermont coach Vern Cotter took him in hand.
In three years he has turned him not only from a wing into an effective centre but also improved his defence, to such an extent that he more than matched giant 110kg Leicester and England centre Manu Tuilagi in December in their European Cup clashes.
All these qualities have seen Fofana seize the opportunity given to him during the World Cup last year, when he was one of Clermont's most effective players as they made light of the absences of several stars - who were away at the tournament - to challenge for the Top 14 lead.
"He is one of the rare examples of young players keeping their place in the starting line-up of their clubs when the players from the World Cup came back," said France coach Philippe Saint-Andre, who also praised Fofana's "enthusiasm and freshness".
Fofana appeared genuinely surprised that he had made the starting XV.
"It is a surprise to be starting the first match," he said.
"Being the last to be called up, I said to myself that I wouldn't necessarily begin the match and that I would be used as cover for two positions [wing and centre].
"It is a surprise, but a very nice surprise."
Fofana, though, believes that despite this sudden increase in the pace of his career, he can handle the pressure.
"It's not so much the pressure that I worry about not being able to handle, but that I will be too impatient to make an impression.
"If it goes well, so much the better. And if I can maintain my place, that will be perfect."
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.