It is less than three years since Semisi Taulava travelled from the other side of the world to see if he still had what it takes.
When the Tongan back row pitched up with his English-born wife at National Two South outfit Worthing that was by no means certain.
A problem with his spinal cord meant the game in New Zealand had passed him by and when he made his debut at Bridgewater in November 2009 he was starting over.
Three seasons and three clubs later he has arrived in the Premiership with Worcester and last weekend he started against Leicester’s England international Thomas Waldrom.
This weekend he faces another contender for the Red Rose No. 8, Ben Morgan. It is safe to say things have changed, very quickly.
“It was only a dream. If someone said that to me three years ago I never thought it would happen,” Taulava says, shaking his head.
Especially not when you put his situation in context. After he was knocked out in a game at the end of 2007, scans showed Taulava had a genetic weakness in the spinal canal, a relatively common condition in South Sea Islanders but one that would end his rugby career at the age of 25.
He continued to train but couldn’t play at all the following year, indeed it was only when the players’ association recommended he see another specialist that he was told he could resume.
However, his contract with Taranaki was up and he needed a fresh challenge so he and Amy, whose father once played for Preston Grasshoppers, headed north. It was a shrewd decision because the same word now describes the direction of his career path.
Impressive performances for Worthing earned him a crack in the Championship and although it initially looked as though that would be with Rotherham, when he heard Leo Halavatau, with whom he had grown up playing in his homeland, was at Birmingham & Solihull he became a Bee.
Coincidentally Taulava’s debut came against Worcester on the opening day of the 2010-11 campaign and even though Bees were well beaten on the scoreboard Taulava’s bullocking running and ability to off-load had etched itself into Richard Hill’s mind.
“It was like getting back on a bike. I was finding my feet and seeing if I could do it all over again and if my body would stand up.
“It wasn’t a good year at Birmingham, with the results and relegation but it was a good year personally, I learned a lot.
“I found out that I had still got it, that if I kept trying maybe – only maybe – it would work out.
“It gave me a lot of confidence knowing that if I could lose the weight and get fitter then maybe it would. But I never believed I could be at Worcester that quick.”
Nevertheless he might have become a Warrior at the end of that season as Worcester talked to him about coming to Sixways as a second row.
But Taulava had misgivings, at 130 kilograms his lineout jumping was less than salmon-like and he still harboured back row aspirations.
So when Rotherham and Andre Bester returned to the table promising to use him as a No. 8 the former Tonga Under 21 took a calculated risk.
It was another wise move. Off the pitch Bester beasted Taulava, on it he trusted him to do a job he wanted to do, while all the while his body shape changed.
“Everyone thinks Andre is a mad man but I really enjoyed playing under him. He is a tough task master – but honest. He says it how it is. If you play terribly he lets you know you’ve played terribly and if you play well, he never tells you. There was not a word of praise for me in my 12 months at Rotherham.