Wales wing Tom James believes his spell playing in England for Exeter Chiefs has rejuvenated his career.
Cardiff Blues’ James, 28, will start in Wales’ opening Six Nations game against Ireland on Sunday, almost six years after the last of his 10 caps.
He was told to apologise to head coach Warren Gatland after walking out before a Six Nations match in March 2010.
James, who rejoined Blues in 2015, said: “In England you’re the forgotten man and I think it helped.”
“They call it the goldfish bowl [in Wales], I just went away from everything,” he added.
“You always want to play for Wales but the first season when I went to Exeter I didn’t really think about it.
“I think my all-round game improved. I think everyone has noticed that since I’ve been back [at Cardiff Blues].”
James has scored eight tries for Cardiff Blues this season, which saw him receive an international recall from Gatland.
The head coach has praised James, who has been selected for the first time since a match against New Zealand in November 2010.
The New Zealander also believes the 10-times capped player has benefited from his time in England.
“If you look back on the history of it, he was in the Welsh goldfish bowl and he needed to get out,” added Gatland.
“He went out and went to the Premiership and played for Exeter and had some excellent form there. I think he’s grown up, matured particularly well as a person and a player and he’s come back and his form for the Blues has been outstanding.
“He was unlucky not to be involved in the World Cup because of his injuries and his opportunity to come back into the Welsh team.”