Nic White always felt a connection to Christian Lealiifano, even when he was on the other side of the world.
But when the former ACT Brumbies scrumhalf gathered teammates, and a World Cup-winning coach, in France and convinced them to shave their heads, White thought they would never play together again.
That's why their on-field reunion will be a special moment when they join forces to try to help the Wallabies topple New Zealand in a Bledisloe Cup clash on Saturday night.
White will return to the Wallabies' No. 9 jersey and Leaiifano will get another chance to impress at flyhalf in what will be start as a Test-match halves combination.
White had move to French club Montpellier to link with coach Jake White when news of Lealiifano's leukaemia rocked international rugby three years ago this week.
"It is [surreal]. It's something we spoke about before I'd even come back [to Australia], we didn't think we'd play together," White said.
"We're obviously pretty close off the field and talking to [Lealiifano] yesterday, I told him I can't really put it into words.
"It's pretty special to be able to, on the back of what he's gone through, be able to play with each other again. So it's exciting.
"That sort of sentiment is nice, but we'll put it [aside] and look back on it. For now, it's business."
White replaces Will Genia at No. 9, while Joe Powell has again missed a spot in the Wallabies' game-day squad and could return to Canberra to play for the Tuggeranong Vikings in a preliminary final on Saturday.
Lealiifano has edged ahead of Bernard Foley in the flyhalf duel, and James O'Connor has been promoted to replace Tevita Kuridrani at outside centre.
Allan Alaalatoa makes his return from a foot injury and Brumbies fullback Tom Banks has been added to the bench for a chance to add X-factor in the second half.
"It's been hard to watch," Alaalatoa said. "The front row has been going really well ... to get the opportunity to represent my country is an honour."
White and Lealiifano spent five seasons together at the Brumbies, either as the scrumhalf-flyhalf combination or with Matt Toomua wedged in the middle and Lealiifano at inside centre.
It is likely White will land back at the Brumbies at the end of next year after signing a multi-year deal to return to Australian rugby, but no deal has been finalised.
White moved to Europe at the end of 2015 and has had stints with Montpellier and Exeter before reviving his 22-Test career this season.
"We've been training together for five weeks ... not just me and Christian, as a whole group," White said.
"After a few days, no matter who you're playing with, you pick things up."
Lealiifano played his first Test in three years when he helped the Wallabies beat Argentina 20-16 two weeks ago and his rise has kept Foley out of the coveted No. 10 jersey.
"Again [it was] tight but Christian did his job [against Argentina]," Cheika said.
"It was his first game back in international colours for a while. He distributed well, made his tackles, took his kicks at goal. It's very tight and it's good we've got competition, with Matt Toomua there as well. It's making it tough for selection."
Saturday: Australia v New Zealand at Perth, 7.45pm.
Wallabies: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Tolu Latu, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Rory Arnold, 6. Lukhan Sakakai-Loto, 7. Michael Hooper (c), 8. Isi Naisarani, 9. Nic White, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Samu Kerevi, 13. James O'Connor, 14. Reece Hodge, 15. Kurtley Beale. Reserves: Folau Faingaa, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Adam Coleman, Luke Jones, Will Genia, Matt Toomua, Tom Banks.
All Blacks: 1. Joe Moody, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Scott Barrett, 5. Samuel Whitelock, 6. Ardie Savea, 7. Sam Cane, 8. Kieran Read (c), 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Richie Mo'unga, 11. Rieko Ioane, 12. Anton Lienert-Brown, 13. Jack Goodhue, 14. Ben Smith, 15. Beauden Barrett. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Atu Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Ngani Laumape, George Bridge.