Dylan Hartley posing with England coach Eddie Jones ahead of the Six Nations
Professional sportsmen at the peak of their powers rarely spare the future a second's thought – they are the immortals – but Hartley's six-week suspension has underlined to the 30-year-old just what he risked throwing away when he was sent off against Leinster.
When he leads his country out against France at Twickenham a week on Saturday, he will do so in the knowledge that he had been given his last chance on the disciplinary front.
"You reflect on things when things like that happen. This is a privileged position to be in, not just to be sat here as captain, but to be involved with the team," said Hartley.
"I've jeopardised that, put the team and myself in a sticky situation and I've had a clear directive from Eddie and the staff of what they expect. I've got my head down and all I can do is repay that faith with how I play.
"It is sobering. You realise what is at stake. I appreciate just being here as I am no spring chicken. I know I haven't got hundreds of years left rugby-wise and this environment is the best I have ever seen.
Hartley put his England career at risk after getting sent-off for Northampton against Leinster
"I truly believe this team is going in the direction where it is going to do great things.
"To be in the camp at the moment and potentially play next week is a huge privilege. It was something over the last six weeks that wasn't at the back of my mind but the forefront of my mind. It was my sole motivator."
Hartley has satisfied Eddie Jones he will be ready to face France despite his long lay-off. After all, he has made such comebacks plenty of times before during his chequered career.
"He has had 60 weeks off. He's the world expert at it!" said Jones yesterday.
Ahead of a championship which could set new records for red and yellow cards with the crackdown on high tackles, reinstating a player who has just been banned for a swinging arm challenge to the head carries risks – particularly one with Hartley's past.
Jones reckons believes Hartley's leadership qualities are important to England
The battered Australian continues to believe that the bristling direction Hartley brings to England on and off the field outweighs his red-mist risk.
"We had an incident yesterday where a player missed something they should have been at and it was up to the senior players to discipline him. When you have a strong captain, you know that's going to happen straight away. Dylan is a strong captain and he makes sure it happens," said Jones.
The accident-waiting-to happen brigade were in full cry when Hartley flattened Sean O'Brien before Christmas in front of a visibly shocked Jones and they were not short on supporting evidence but the Northampton hooker has convinced him there will be no repeat in an England jersey.
"I'm aware people write stuff. As long as it is fact based I have no grudge. As soon as it starts being opinion I might have a grudge to bear but, hey ho, they have jobs and I have a job – which is to keep my tackles at an acceptable height and play within the laws. It is noise and I try not to read into it, but I am aware of what is said.
"I've worked hard on my tackle technique with [defence coach] Paul Gustard and some of the other staff. We always want to tackle low but there are times in a game where you are the second man where that isn't an option. For me it's about bringing my arms tighter to my body and following through with shoulder and then the arm.
Six Nations 2016 in pictures
Sun, March 20, 2016
Express Sport brings you the best pictures from the 2016 RBS Six Nations Championship
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Express Sport brings you all the best pictures from the 2016 Six Nations Championship, where England achieved their first Grand Slam since 2003
"There are a few technical things but we have to adapt as the sanctions for high tackles have changed and we need to look after player safety.
"It is something that I needed to clean up and I've given myself a good chance of not having that same issue again but it is an on-going thing – it is something I have to keep working on."
Meanwhile, Worcester have parachuted in South African Gary Gold as director or rugby to spearhead their Premiership relegation fight.
The former Bath coach will work above existing boss Carl Hogg and will have Scotland's Ryan Grant at his disposal with the Glasgow prop moving South immediately.