If Billy Pollard had spent his life dreaming of a Wallabies call-up, he could be forgiven for thinking the phone calls he received late on Wednesday night were just a dream.
The Brumbies hooker's phone lit up as the Australian coaches sent an urgent SOS to the 20-year-old after Dave Porecki suffered a concussion at training.
This was no dream, rather the start of a whirlwind 24 hours for Pollard. The youngster was up in the early hours of Thursday morning to jump on a plane and link up with the Australian squad in Mendoza.
The hooker is not expected to play in this weekend's opening Test against Argentina, departing Brumby Folau Fainga'a and understudy Lachlan Lonergan likely to step up in Porecki's absence.
Pollard recently returned from the Pacific Nations Cup with the Australia A squad, where he was coached by ACT assistant coach Rod Seib.
Seib was impressed by the youngster's performances and feels he has what it takes to make the next step in his career.
"Billy went over to the Pacific Nations Cup and flourished," Seib said.
"He really enjoyed that environment and obviously the people at the next level think highly of him. Whether he's ready to play at the next level is a big question, but he's certainly ready for exposure to that environment. He's played very few Super Rugby games, he still needs to get a lot of experience under his belt.
"If he gets that exposure to the international environment, the camp environment on this trip, hopefully in the coming years he gets an opportunity to cement a place in the Wallabies team."
Pollard was one of the most highly-sought after prospects in his class, numerous rugby union and rugby league clubs offering lucrative contracts to secure his signature.
Ultimately it was former Brumbies coach, and current Wallabies assistant, Dan McKellar who was able to win the race, a rare victory for the 15-man game in the competitive schoolboy signing market.
McKellar preached a long-term vision to Pollard, a steady progression from local rugby to Super Rugby and eventually the international arena.
After making his Brumbies debut in 2021, the 20-year-old has featured in eight games for the club across the last two years.
Australia A selection was the next step in his development, the Wallabies further down the track.
That pathway has rapidly accelerated this week, many within the code impressed by Pollard's growth.
"For a guy who's very good at contact and also very good in space, it's obvious to see the value rugby league teams saw in him," Seib said.
"Getting to know Billy, he really does enjoy the game of rugby. While there were some lucrative offers thrown at him from league, I get the feeling his love for the game of rugby steered him towards staying on a path to the Wallabies."
Pollard has had the opportunity to learn from Wallabies Fainga'a, Lonergan and Connal McInerney at the Brumbies, the trio showing him the ropes in a professional environment.
Fainga'a has left for the Force, a move likely to open opportunities for Pollard.
"Front rowers tend to be in their late 20s before they're at their best," Seib said. "We look at Billy, he's still such a young kid, we don't know what his ceiling's going to be.
"If he goes on the trajectory we hope he can, hopefully he can establish himself in the Wallabies environment for years to come.
"If you look at power and physical development of the young man, we'll probably see him reaching his peak in another five years. There's plenty of growth in him and we're excited with where he's at at this stage."
Pollard's progression follows the path of another former hooker, Wallabies great Phil Kearns making his Test debut at the age of 22.
While he was not involved in the race to sign Pollard, Kearns has long heard whispers of the hooker with the potential to be a future star.
This tour, he feels, will provide the youngster with a chance to learn what it takes to excel at Test level.
"The key thing you want him to learn on this tour is hard work," Kearns said. "That means everything, you have to fit in with the culture, understand what it's like being on tour with the national team.
"The critical piece for his development is the scrum and lineout. If you do those two things right, everything else around the field is a bonus."
Pollard's open-field play has long been his strength, a skill that contributed to the interest from NRL sides.
That saw McKellar focus closely on the set-piece, teaching the youngster the arts of scrummaging and lineout throwing.
It's an area of his game that has improved rapidly, such that Seib considers Pollard an elite all-round talent.
"In the time I've known him, his set piece has been improving to the point he's a very strong scrummager. His lineout throwing in the past 12 months has also come on in leaps and bounds."
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