Now that he's drawing rave reviews as Ireland's established full-back, it's easy to forget the bizarre early-season scenario which had Rob Kearney consistently out of position on the left wing.
After two superb turns at No 15 against New Zealand and Australia on Ireland's summer tour -- performances which earned lavish praise from a hard-to-impress Australian and New Zealand rugby media -- it was widely expected Kearney would be locked in his preferred position for the foreseeable future.
However, Michael Cheika's attempts to juggle his resources at Leinster meant Kearney was forced into the No 11 jersey as Girvan Dempsey and Isa Nacewa alternated at the back.
The upshot was that, when Declan Kidney was picking his team for the November series, the Louthman had no run of games in the position and was back on the touchline as the Ireland coach selected Keith Earls, Dempsey and Geordan Murphy at full-back on successive Saturdays.
The theory goes that, in the modern game, the back three have to be versatile and interchangeable and that the number on Kearney's back was irrelevant.
It was a feasible explanation -- to a point -- but thoughts kept straying back to those summer evenings in Wellington's Cake Tin and Melbourne's Telstra Dome, and to the old maxim of picking your best players in their best positions.
And finally it happened, as the New Year brought release and a run of games at full-back for Leinster made Kidney's decision straightforward.
Accomplished displays against France and Italy, and Kearney is being touted as the Lions Test No 15 for this summer's tour to South Africa. And, while at pains to stress that his primary focus is the Six Nations, Kearney admits it is hard to prevent his thoughts straying to the summer.
"It's only natural that you are looking at the opposition out there. I would be lying if I said I wasn't but, at the same time, your thoughts can't drift too far from the match in hand," he says.
"The Lions tour is very far away, but you dream about these things.
“It is the pinnacle of a player's career, but the second you lose sight of your week-to-week job is the time you are barking up the wrong tree."
The immediate task is England at Croke Park on Saturday and measuring himself against opposite number Delon Armitage -- one of the few positives to emerge from Martin Johnson's troubled time in charge.
"He is a good player. We know about his strengths going forward and we have highlighted some of his possible weaknesses," says Kearney with a quiet confidence stemming from the self-belief that comes with quality performances in the right role.
"I feel I can bring more to the table. I would hate to see myself as a weak link ... I know I can add something to the team performance."