Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says Super Rugby form made it impossible for him to overlook Christian Lealiifano, paving the way for the playmaker to chase a World Cup fairytale.
Lealiifano is on the cusp of earning his first Wallabies cap in three years after being named in a 34-man Test squad on Thursday afternoon.
He is one of 10 ACT Brumbies in the squad for the first Rugby Championship game against South Africa on July 10 and edges him closer to World Cup selection.
Cheika left Lealiifano out of his World Cup squad four years ago. The Brumbies skipper was diagnosed with leukaemia less than 12 months later and told he may never play rugby again.
Lealiifano made a surprise comeback for the Brumbies in 2017 and has recaptured his best form this year, leading the Canberra side into week two of the Super Rugby play-offs.
The 31-year-old hasn't played for Australia since 2016 in the months before he was diagnosed with cancer.
"I'm not the expert to speak on what [Lealiifano's'] been through, only he knows that and his family," Cheika said.
"I had an opportunity maybe a year or so ago to speak with him at length about a lot of things from the last World Cup selection to what's happening now and how I see him.
"What you can't deny is his form in Super Rugby at the end of the day.
"If you take out all the other things that he's achieved in his life, take all of that away and if you look at the form, he's been playing good in Super Rugby and deserves to be there."
Cheika has also picked Brumbies young gun Rob Valetini, who could make his Test debut in the clash against the Springboks in Johannesburg.
Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Folau Faingaa, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Tom Banks, Tevita Kuridrani and Joe Powell have also been included.
Pete Samu has been left out after suffering a hamstring strain, which is expected to keep him out of action for at least one month. David Pocock is also still recovering from the calf injury, which prematurely ended his Brumbies career.
"Pocock is progressing nicely. Just get to the next step, it's been a bit of a battle but it looks like he's turned a corner there," Cheika said.
"We're positive about having him back at some stage during the Rugby Championship."
It's the first squad in a World Cup year, with Cheika to take just 31 players to the tournament in Japan.
The Brumbies' 10-man contingent is the most of any Australian team after they made it to week two of the finals.
The NSW Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels have nine players each, the Queensland Reds have five and former Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White is an overseas-based inclusion.
"We tried to look at Super Rugby form," Cheika said. "Also what players have done before, what they can bring. It's a bit of a mix.
"It comes with the performances of the Super Rugby teams and then what we see inside players who have been in camp."
Cheika couldn't find room for Toni Pulu, Henry Speight, Lachlan McCaffrey or Sam Carter in the squad for the first Test.
The Wallabies will play three Rugby Championship matches, a second Bledisloe Cup game and a one-off Test against Samoa before starting their World Cup campaign in Japan.
Lealiifano will be competing with Bernard Foley for the flyhalf reins after Quade Cooper was left out of the touring party.
Lealiifano played 19 Tests for Australia before illness put his career on hold.
"I was surprised because I wasn't expecting anything like that, my main focus has been at the Brumbies and I'm enjoying that," Lealiifano said when he was invited to a Wallabies camp in May.
"I'm really proud of the journey I've been on over the last few years to be able to get that recognition later in my career ... I didn't really know how to feel. I'd probably had minimal contact [with the Wallabies]. It was nice there was some good news, I was stoked to be there."
Forwards:Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Jack Dempsey, Folau Fainga'a, Michael Hooper (c), Luke Jones, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Isi Naisarani, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Rob Simmons, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese, Rob Valetini, Liam Wright.
Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Banks, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Jack Maddocks, Joe Powell, Matt Toomua, Nic White.