Handre Pollard, the South Africa fly-half, has revealed that he initially tried to move to the Gallagher Premiership three years ago after winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup before ending up in France with Montpellier.
The Springbok has now joined Leicester Tigers although no date is set for Pollard's debut while he continues to recover from a meniscus tear picked up in the Rugby Championship and he expects to be available for South Africa's Test matches in November.
"We're still taking it day by day. We've still got a couple of boxes to tick but I am very excited and optimistic," he said of his recovery from injury and hopes for a first appearance for the Midlands club.
Regarding his move to Mattioli Woods Welford Road, Pollard revealed that three years ago there wasn't anything "serious on the table", despite his eagerness to move to the Gallagher Premiership. The expiry of his contract with Montpellier combined with George Ford's exit to Sale Sharks opened a door three years later.
"I wanted to come here three years ago but there wasn't really the opportunity so I had to go elsewhere. When the opportunity came up with Fordy going on, it was honestly a no brainer for me. My wife and I always wanted to come to England. We never had the opportunity. Getting an opportunity at a club like this, it's something you can't pass on."
One attraction was the chance to work with Aled Walters again, Leicester's head of performance who Pollard was full of praise for after their time working together with the Springboks.
"Speaking to Aled who has been with them throughout the whole process, a guy that I rate very highly and really respect, you could see [Leicester] were on track to do something special," Pollard says.
"[Aled] is unbelievable, world-class and he is a massive reason I decided to come here. There's no hiding from it. What he did for us in those two years with the Springboks, we were by far in the best shape of our lives.
"With them and me personally, the way he does stuff, it's something me and my body reacts really well to. Apart from being a brilliant coach at what he does, he's an unbelievable person and he's great to have in a squad."
When Pollard's debut does happen – he received a more positive diagnosis after arriving in London than when the injury occurred in Australia – he will get to run out with a number of England's brightest young talents in Ollie Chessum, Jack van Poortvliet and Freddie Steward, the latter pair having both signed new contracts with Leicester this week.
Pollard won't face his club team-mates in November – South Africa's game with England falls outside of the international window, meaning South Africa's Premiership players will not be released – but the prospect of helping to develop young English talents who will play a major role at next year's Rugby World Cup is a real one.
"It’s always fun playing against your team-mates at international level. In terms of the young boys at Leicester, it’s unbelievable the amount of talent they have," adds Pollard. "The guys have had success but they have not sat down for one second. They want to get better, better and better. They’ve got so much ambition and that rubs off on the older guys as well. Hopefully I can learn from them along the way as well.
"I’m not that old yet, come on! Those boys don’t need a lot of help. They’re brilliant rugby players."
After already tasting numerous local curries and the atmosphere of an East Midlands derby having been a travelling reserve for last weekend's win over Northampton, the next step is for Pollard to run out in a Leicester shirt. He believes the "chess game" of the Premiership should suit him more than France's "a lot more loose and creative" template. Watching Pollard over the years, he should certainly slot into Steve Borthwick's structured approach easily.
"It’s an unbelievable honour to be a part of a club like this," admits Pollard. "Hopefully I can contribute as best I can."