Delon Armitage described being called into the starting XV for England's World Cup opener against Argentina on Saturday as a "massive turnaround."
Armitage, normally a full-back, replaces the injured Mark Cueto on the left wing for England.
Armitage, 27, missed England's Six Nations campaign because of a ban for pushing a doping official after a match against Bath on New Year's Day.
"To get the opportunity to start is a dream come true," said Armitage.
"Just to be in the squad was huge. I knew I'd have to work really hard to get on the bench.
"I didn't even think I'd be over here, it's a massive turnaround and shows if you work hard and do the right things, sometimes you get your reward."
Bath giant Matt Banahan has more experience on the wing than the London Irish man, who has never started a game there for England, but Armitage's lively displays in England's warm-up matches tipped the balance in his favour.
Armitage, who received another ban for a punch on Northampton fly-half Stephen Myler in April, is also an assured presence under the high ball, which the Argentines are expected to rain down upon the England back three, and an extra kicking option.
"I've played on the wing a few times and nowadays the back three is the back three," added Armitage, one of 10 World Cup debutants in the England 22 for the game.
"And as Chris Ashton shows, if you come off your wing and work you get your reward, you get a lot of tries just following the chubby guys.
"I'm happy with the way I'm playing. I still need to get my counter-attack game going and improve my defence. But I play a lot better with a smile on my face and recently I've got back to that and enjoying my rugby again.
"The style England are playing, we want to throw the ball around and have a go, it suits me. Hopefully the back three can get the ball and enjoy themselves. It's an enjoyable place to be at the moment, this England squad."
England manager Martin Johnson said that Sale wing Cueto, who has a lower back strain, could have played but that he was "not quite where he needed to be."
"If you've got a guy who's not quite right and a guy who's in great form, it's quite a simple decision," said Johnson.
"Delon's playing well, he's raring to go, we had no qualms about playing him. He's a very good footballer, he's got a physical presence, an aerial presence, all angles covered.
"I wouldn't have had a problem playing Matt [Banahan] on the wing, he's played very well against Argentina in the past, but we thought Delon deserved his shot."