Samu’s winding road to Wallaby gold
PETE Samu's head is still spinning at the sudden Wallabies call-up that has rushed him from the champion Crusaders backrow into contention for a gold Test jersey on Saturday.
The Melbourne-born flanker was still feeling his way in just his third day as a Wallaby on Tuesday but among more familiar faces than most might expect.
His circuitous route to this shot at possible selection against Ireland at Suncorp Stadium has come via his schoolboy rugby days in Melbourne, Sydney club Randwick, a lower division team in England and a dabble with Michael Cheika's wider training group at the NSW Waratahs in 2013.
Australian rugby should be ever-grateful for his finishing school in New Zealand where raw athleticism and skills have been polished since 2014 with Tasman and the Crusaders.
The quietly-spoken Samu, 26, has not done a media interview in his three seasons with the Crusaders so everything was new about Tuesday's queue of journos keen for a chat.
"I know a lot of the boys ... Sekope (Kepu) from Randwick days and Hoops (captain Michael Hooper) obviously from the Waratahs," Samu said.
Everything has happened so suddenly. He was immersed in the confident Crusaders pack and suddenly became the centre of a tug of war between rugby's trans-Tasman powers.
Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Tony Lewis, who was responsible for Samu's initial move from Randwick to New Zealand, has indicated no financial compensation is heading their way.
He's just happy the explosive forward is getting a crack and indicated Samu's Australian honours will be recognised on Tasman's wall of honour beside the jerseys of All Blacks.
Just how exciting is it to be hooked from the clouds into a Test squad?
"I'm still coming to terms with it actually ... it's always the dream to represent your country," Samu said.
"To actually be part of the squad is pretty exciting."
He speaks with an Aussie accent and his Australian heritage is unquestioned: "I did all my schooling in Melbourne before I left for rugby."
Off he went.
Samu looked far more comfortable when he headed to the training track at Ballymore for the ball-handling drills and a physical session with Cheika at the wheel.
At 102kg, he's 10kg lighter and way shorter than Scott Fardy, Australia's best blindside flanker of recent years.
Samu does have dynamism, speed and his savvy Kiwi rugby education and is an excellent addition to Australia's backrow depth.