Christian Lealiifano was perhaps the most unlikely man to walk down the stairs to a Wallabies World Cup dream on Friday, but not because he beat cancer.
Lealiifano would have been playing for Samoa next month if an Australian rugby great hadn't stepped in to reignite his Wallabies gold ambitions.
That's why the playmaker's beaming grin at the Wallabies' squad announcement told a number of stories, including his own surprise at securing a ticket to Japan
Excited and determined after being diagnosed with leukaemia three years ago before fighting his way back on to the field and restarting his career.
Relieved because he almost quit his Australian World Cup mission to honour family heritage until a conversation with Stephen Larkham changed his pathway.
It paid off when Lealiifano was named in Michael Cheika's squad and boarded a plane to New Caledonia for a pre-World Cup training camp.
Before he left he detailed the agonising decision he faced 12 months ago when he was weighing up his future and his prospects of World Cup selection.
The 31-year-old thought he had fallen off the Wallabies' radar and suddenly Samoa emerged as a World Cup option given his family history.
He would have needed to play several sevens tournaments this year to be eligible for the tier-two nation, which would have also given him a chance to team up with best mate Jack Lam.
Then Larkham, the Wallabies' 1999 World Cup hero and former Test assistant coach, had some words of wisdom. They were followed by conversations with family and friends, and a change of heart.
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"I hadn't played for Australia for three years," Lealiifano says.
"I looked at Samoa, joining a tier-two nation. We explored that idea because I didn't think I would get to play for Australia at a World Cup.
"But then Bernie [Larkham] talked me out of it. He said not to settle, to push myself.
"I'm glad he said that because while it would have been nice to represent my family and Samoa, I've learnt all of my rugby in Australia.
"I knew playing for Samoa was a long shot, but I explored it and if it came to the crunch, maybe I would have given it a go. But I wanted to back myself to get back to playing quality rugby and I'm ticking goals off slowly. I'm proud of that."
The phones of Wallabies players lit up on Wednesday after the final selection meetings.
Past World Cup players called those in the team, while Cheika spoke to those who had missed out.
Lealiifano's phone started buzzing at 10pm with Cheika's number. "I thought I wasn't in," Lealiifano said.
The player who was supposed to call Lealiifano was Larkham, but he couldn't be reached in Ireland.
So it was Lealiifano who called Larkham to tell him the good news after years working together at the ACT Brumbies and now sharing a World Cup bond.
But Lealiifano's journey has been about so much more than rugby.
"Did I have doubts? Yeah. But to be back to full health ... it's been a hell of a ride," Lealiifano said.
"Without the supporter of my family - my partner Luga, mum, my brothers and sisters - and friends and teammates, this just wouldn't be possible.
"The belief that people have in me is crazy. That's what motivates and inspires me. They drive me to be the best I can be."
The former Brumbies captain will be one of eight ACT players in the Australian squad, linking with David Pocock, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Faingaa, Rory Arnold, James Slipper and Tevita Kuridrani.
Lealiifano, Faingaa, Alaalatoa and Arnold will be making their World Cup debut and are four of 18 tournament rookies in the squad.
"It's pretty surreal," said towering lock Rory Arnold, who was told of his selection by Justin Harrison.
"I'm still pinching myself a bit. I remember watching the squad announcement four years ago and you think you'll never get there.
"To be on this stage, it's a surreal feeling. I'm very grateful for the chance. I can't wait."
Faingaa added: "It's a dream come true. This whole year I've just thought about the Brumbies, but halfway through the year I thought the World Cup was a chance."
But Lealiifano says the Wallabies are still aiming high as he prepares to compete with Bernard Foley and Matt Toomua for the No. 10 jersey for the tournament opener against Fiji on September 21.
"I'm just full of excitement and pride. A lot of pride for the journey I've had," Lealiifano said. "I'm excited as a group because of what we want to achieve and what we're working towards.
"I'm still pinching myself a little bit. I can enjoy this moment here, but then you've got to rip in and do the work."
Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Jack Dempsey, Folau Faingaa, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Isi Naisarani, David Pocock, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Taniela Tupou, Jordan Uelese.
Backs: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Will Genia, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Samu Kerevi, Marika Koroibete, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, James O'Connor, Jordan Petaia, Matt Toomua, Nic White.