Rarely could Noah Lolesio have pictured himself in Australia's No. 10 jersey little more than three weeks ago. Now he could be in the box seat to call the shots in pursuit of the Bledisloe Cup.
Lolesio may well have earned first crack at flyhalf in the Wallabies' series opener against the All Blacks at Eden Park on August 7. By that stage, James O'Connor won't have played in more than two months.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie could be hesitant to throw O'Connor straight into the fray as he rehabilitates a groin injury, while 21-year-old Lolesio has shown he is ready for the big moments.
There's a reason why he found Michael Hooper at the sound of Ben O'Keeffe's whistle and urged him to "go for the three", burying a previous miss and nailing a series-winning penalty for Australia over France on Saturday night.
Why he claimed man of the match honours in a Super Rugby AU final after 64 days out. Why he booted Canberra into an NRC decider after the siren. Why he was plucked from colts as an 18-year-old and soon steered Tuggeranong to the John I Dent Cup.
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"Before the Tests happened, I wasn't expecting this at all, obviously with Rabs [O'Connor] being there," Lolesio said.
"Unfortunately Rabs was injured, so I was going to do everything in my control to do the best job for the team. I felt like I didn't leave any stone unturned, I prepped well.
"I really wanted to do the jersey well, especially that No. 10 jersey, because there are so many great players who have played in that jersey before. I wanted to leave a good mark for it.
"When the penalty was called, I told Hoops straight away 'go for the three'. As soon as the whistle was blown, I just really tried to calm myself down and stick to my process.
"The one beforehand, I hooked it a fair bit. I just really tried to trust myself to stay on that 45. Honestly, it wasn't the best strike, but the fact I stayed in the 45 and I followed through, it just went straight through the posts. I was very happy."
The Wallabies' 33-30 victory in the third Test has been hailed by some as potentially generation-defining after the hosts were left with 14 men on the field for 75 minutes following Marika Koroibete's controversial red card.
"Us backs had a discussion and we had a discussion with the team also. Obviously with Marika gone we had to play pretty direct. I thought our forwards won us that game. They were unreal," Lolesio said.
"Play in the right areas and play direct, and we knew we were going to get paid, whether it was three points or five."
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