NEC Harlequins lock forward Alex Codling, who has played some of the best rugby in his career during the past four months, clinched his place on England's tour to Argentina this summer with an outstanding display for his country in the non-capped international against the Barbarians at Twickenham last Sunday.
"It was a surprise but one that I am absolutely thrilled about," said Codling. "It is an honour to put on the England shirt whatever the occasion, and it doesn't bother me that they were not giving out caps for the Barbarians game. The side that they put out on Sunday was as good, if not better, than most international sides."
"It was a fantastic experience and I thought from one to 15, and one to 22 when the substitutes came on, that everyone did their bit and showed a lot of commitment against a star studded Barbarians team."
"We certainly did ourselves no harm, and we all put our bodies on the line for a great victory."
Although England coach Clive Woodward was not getting too carried away with
the victory, Codling's display in such exalted company certainly caught his eye.
"Whilst (Phil) Vickery, (Steve) Thompson and (Joe) Worsley are the experienced guys in the pack, Alex Codling had a wonderful match," said the England boss, who had plenty of choice when it came to stand out performances during the game.
"It was a tremendous win for us," said Codling. "We trained very well all week and we had a great camaraderie between the boys and I think that showed on Sunday."
"We believed in each other and it was just the case of sticking to the things we worked on," continued the former Richmond lock, who joined Quins from Neath two season's ago and had not experienced the thrill of playing at Twickenham until last year's Tetley's Bitter Cup Final.
"They were both amazing experiences, but putting on an England shirt is something you dream of when you are younger, especially at the home of rugby, and it was an experience that I will never forget."
"Even at the beginning of the week when I was on the substitute's bench, I got myself mentally prepared and I was always ready to go from minute one. I just enjoy playing and I'm certainly not fazed by anybody. At the end of the day, whoever is on the other side is just a player and so long as I do the things I can do and do them well and I've got to put them under as much pressure as possible, whoever they are - and I enjoy a challenge,"
If Codling is going to maintain his newly found status, then next season is going to have added importance for himself and the club, who scrambled to safety a week before the season ended.
"I've been really pleased with my form lately, and as a team we played a lot better these last few months and I've really enjoyed playing. I am only 28 so I still feel as if I've got a lot of time left in me. I know that I have got the ability and it's just a case of showing it when I get out on the pitch and get an opportunity."
"I suppose that my lineout work has got me noticed because it's where we restart the game, but I would like to think that I work hard and do a lot more around the pitch. It's a case of working for the team and whatever I have to do I'll do it."
"I love wearing the Quins shirt and I am looking forward to next year. As long as we work hard in the summer I think we can have a good season next year. There were a couple of games that we should have taken nearer the end of the season, but we are under no illusion that we will have to work very hard this summer and come back fitter and stronger next year."
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.