CARDIFF: New Wallabies halfback Brendan McKibbin was about 30 hours into his last-minute journey from Sydney to Cardiff when the driver who picked him up from Heathrow Airport insisted they stop at his house for a cup of tea.
There was a training session to get to, a few team plays to swot up on and some jet-lag to fight. No matter. This was the quintessential welcome to Test match touring for the Waratahs halfback. Unexpected twists, intriguing sidesteps and an introduction to the home side's country few current-generation Wallabies get to experience.
McKibbin, who had woken to the emergency call-up in the form of a pre-dawn text message on Monday morning, was delighted to oblige his driver. A few hours later, kitted out in Wallabies T-shirt but no matching tracksuit pants, the 27-year-old showed no signs of weariness as he tag-teamed departing halfback Brett Sheehan, who was nursing a serious ankle injury.
''I'm pretty excited … It's good to finally be here after a long couple of days of travel,'' he said. ''It is unfortunate for Brett, but if it's the case and this weekend I get a chance to make my debut, I am pretty thrilled about it.''
The debut would come with a catch. If Robbie Deans sends on McKibbin for 30 seconds, the Scottish-born halfback will surrender any eligibility he had to play for the country of his birth.
He thought about the situation for a brief moment on Tuesday afternoon at the Wallabies' hotel but said he had no regrets about re-signing with the Waratahs this year.
''If I can play for Australia, then ultimately that would be fantastic. Yeah, it would knock [Scotland] on the head,'' McKibbin said. ''[A potential Test debut] certainly does make it all worthwhile, it is something I have aspired to do.''
McKibbin, the fifth Test halfback used this year, will be named on the bench in support of Nick Phipps, who returns to the starting No.9 role. In anticipation of a lack of numbers in the specialist role, coach Deans had met with McKibbin a couple of times throughout the year to familiarise him with the Australian set-up.
''We went through, not too long ago, all the plays and the policies. I was familiar with them … so if I do get that opportunity it won't be jumping in the deep end,'' McKibbin said. ''I will have a couple of days to get my head around that and watch a fair bit more footage over the next few days, and dive into training.''