Finlay Bealham is a back-up no more. That’s what happens when you front up.
All he needed was a start to confirm his own suspicions; by the end of his day, he had defrayed the anxieties of many thousands in Cardiff and beyond.
It wouldn’t be easy, even if, at times, he made it seem so, but doing it with ease helped.
Expectations remain sky-scrapingly high, but sometimes the pressures, whether self-imposed or demanded by others, can be suffocating.
What Ireland demonstrated against Wales, amongst other things, was a serenity amidst potential chaos, coping with late withdrawals and late buses.
Tadhg Furlong’s absence may have been flagged much earlier, but genuine concern for Ireland was obvious; Bealham coped and must do so once more this weekend.
“I suppose with time and putting in performances, you probably build up a natural trust and all that, but I never had it in my head that I had something to prove,” he says.
“I just do my job as best I can, be the best version of myself, and I get what I deserve. It’s nice to have respect, but I won’t get carried away.”
Difference is respected in this Ireland squad; a hothouse environment featuring more than 50 players, coaches and assorted staff cannot operate without a cocktail of disparate characteristics.
Belham’s personality, he chuckles self-effacingly, is ‘weird’.
“Well, that’s just what Pete O’Mahony and a few of the other boys say. I met Gary Keegan (Ireland’s performance coach) the other night, and they’re all slagging me saying, ‘You have your work cut out with Finlay, he’s a complete freak’.”
Individuality within a team sport can be a tricky business; this squad, for now at least, appear to have achieved a semblance of respectful balance.
“That’s the culture we have, everyone can be themselves, and there’s no taking time to be yourself.
“Everyone comes in from the get-go, and you can express yourself. There’s no stupid questions you can ask. That’s really resonated with me. I might have done it overboard with the weirdness and stuff, but I’m just being myself.”
That seems certified now given Furlong’s persistent calf problem; after winning 24 of his 27 caps from the bench, he will make his second successive Six Nations start in Saturday’s putative title decider.
“I really enjoy the environment and hopefully can stay in it a bit longer,” he says.
That goes for his personal life, too. The Aussie-born Connacht player married Sarah, a Galway pharmacist, last summer and he will remain here beyond his playing days. She is the love of his life; his dog is the bane of his life, literally.
“Sarah prioritised some of the home games coming up, which is fair. The one game I got my first start, she’s working, so she’s gutted, but she’s good as gold and very supportive. It doesn’t bother me, I can see her tonight.
“She’s at home minding my dog. You know when people say a dog is like its owner; he’s a French mastiff, and he’s 70 kilos. He’s called Bane.
“He drools and slobbers everywhere. I always tell her I don’t know how she puts up with the two of us because I’d be a bit of a character and a bit weird.
“Bane is equally as weird, and she’s quite normal, so it’s yin and yang. We get on great. He’s a big teddy bear. Last night, he was up in the bedroom minding Sarah, so the two of them are holding down the fort really well. It’s pleasing for me because I can come here and put the head down, not be worrying about the ship back home.”
France will be a step up in class, but Cardiff showed he can prosper, even if he is sometimes the last to know. “I didn’t even know we had a scrum penalty,” he laughs, recalling a big first-half moment. “I got up and didn’t know we had an advantage. I was running around and was like, ‘B****x, I wish we had the penalty now!”