ON THE day Mike Teague retired from top-flight rugby a decade ago, little did Mark Cornwell realise that 10 years later he would be celebrating a Testimonial Year with his home-town club.
But on Friday, August 26 Cornwell will be rewarded for a decade of service when Viadana come to Kingsholm to complete the final piece in Dean Ryan's pre-season jigsaw.
Teague's final appearance for Gloucester was a Kingsholm defeat against Harlequins, but the match was also memorable for the debuts of two young pups in the home-town pack.
Cornwell was joined by Phil Greening on that defining afternoon in the engine room of the Gloucester forward effort - who also took a strike against the head of Brian Moore - and the big second row has since gone on to make more than 150 appearances for the club.
But never before has Cornwell led the team onto the field at Kingsholm and he is relishing the chance for what will be one of the greatest days of his career. For a player who has seen just about everything there is to see in the past 10 years of high-stakes tribal warfare, who has traded blows in the line-out with Martin Johnson and co, been rucked and mauled to high heaven and dished out a fair bit back, it will be one of proudest moments of his career.
"It means a hell of a lot - and it has been quite strange trying to get my head around it," Cornwell told wwwgloucesterrugby.co.uk. "But now it's getting closer, I am really looking forward to it. "It's a massive honour - it's not often you get to lead the team out unless you are captain and it will be a privilege to do it. When I made my 100th appearance I did at Bristol, but it will be totally different at Kingsholm.
"But there is more to it than simply running out in front of the crowd. It is the last pre-season game before we play Worcester, so there is plenty of importance to it and we will be running through everything like it's a proper game.
"Dean [Ryan] has said he will try and pick his strongest side, so we cannot ease up.
"To me, we have to put everything into it. I am a player and at the end of it, I will approach it like any other game and we have to try and beat the opposition by as many points as we can."
Cornwell has played with more second row partners than he cares to mention and has gone through seven directors of rugby - the last of which was Nigel Melville - and will start the season competing for a place alongside Adam Eustace and Alex Brown before South African Quinton Davids arrives later in the season.
"When I think back, I never thought I would still be around now," Cornwell said. "The next thing you know, you are in the team week in, week out and the years simply fly by.
"All of a sudden you think you have loads of time left but the last three years seem to have merged into one since we won the Powergen Cup and I don't know where the time has gone, it's scary.
"And then the body starts telling you it's not 19 any more - and it is certainly telling me that now."
But since that day in 1995, Cornwell has broken his arm during Gloucester's 68-12 dismemberment of Bath, split Johnson's head open with his elbow in a line-out fracas last year, witnessed Eustace break his leg against Ebbw Vale in the European Shield and was confined to physio room when the floodlights failed against Bridgend.
"When you reach six or seven years, it crosses your mind about 10 years, but never before that. I have still got all my pay cheques and the first one was for £200 - handed to me on a small piece of white paper by John Fidler.
"I was getting paid for something that had been my hobby - it was a dream come true then."
Cornwell has seen just about everything that is possible to see in his decade at the top of the game and is now the most experienced home-grown talent in Ryan's squad. He will be looking for a successful afternoon against Viadana and then plenty more when the Premiership starts with a trip to Worcester on September 4.
For tickets to the match, which is all pay, The ticket office is open from Monday to Wednesday 9am-5pm, Thursday, 9am-6.30pm and Friday 9am to 3.30. For information, contact 0871 871 8781 or visit wwww.gloucesterrugby.co.uk
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