Off the back of his recent Olympic debut, Samu Kerevi is ready to use the learnings from his short time in the Australian sevens program to bolster the Wallabies in their third Bledisloe Test next week and their Rugby Championship that follow.
Just two years after Kerevi told reporters he thought he'd pulled the gold jersey on for the last time, the centre represented Australia at the Tokyo Games before he returned to the Wallabies camp as cover for Hunter Paisami, who is expected to leave for the birth of his child. And the 33-Test veteran is now inline for a stunning recall for Bledisloe III on August 28.
"I think I got told after our last game at the Olympics against Canada, Walshy [Tim Walsh] kind of gave me the heads up when I got off the bus back to the village," Kerevi said of the news he was set for a return to the national team. "I know I didn't see it coming, I hadn't really spoken to Dave [Rennie] or Scotty [Scott Johnson] before that so it was kind of a massive surprise to me, that kind of turned into excitement as well, but I still knew I had two weeks of quarantine to come so kind of just kept it to myself.
"I thought after 2019 with how selection is from overseas, I didn't think I would get another opportunity so it's a blessing for me. Anyone overseas wants to put on that gold jersey so it's a massive blessing and I'm grateful to be in the situation and in this group to help contribute.
"If that opportunity comes knocking, I'll happily take it."
Joining the sevens program following the end of Japan's Top League season, Kerevi had just months to transition into the sevens game, learn his role and find a place in Australia's Olympic team. Slotting in well in the squad, Kerevi proved himself one of Australia's standout players.
Despite Australia's seventh place finish and his short stint as part of the squad, the work ethic of the sevens group left a lasting impact on Kerevi.
"I think their passion for the program and how much they're committed to that program stuck with me. We definitely fell short of where we expected to be and how we expected to play at the Olympics but their love for the program and how much they push each other, training to be better, that's something I really admire.
"Especially how hard they work, they work extremely hard, especially on the fitness side of things and executing skills. It's definitely something I picked up in terms of my running that I can do to get better to apply it into fifteens."
He also defended his teammates following their infamous boozy flight home from Tokyo.
"It was really tough the first couple of days' quarantine for a lot of the news to come out that wasn't necessarily true," Kerevi said. "The boys are willing to take the blame and cop that they did have a couple of beers on the plane, and it wasn't just our group."
Under the current modification of the Giteau Law, Kerevi qualifies for the Wallabies as one of two overseas-based players available for selection alongside former Reds teammate Duncan Paia'aua.
Following the Wallabies 57-22 loss on Sunday, Rugby Australia chief Andy Marinos said the Giteau Law would be looked at to broaden the talent pool. Marinos' comments prompted a flood of reaction, with fans, former players and pundits alike seemingly split on whether any change to the policy would be a good idea.
While he is beneficiary of the amendment made in 2020, Kerevi said he was a fan of the current set-up and would prefer the Wallabies focus on local talent rather than loosening the Giteau Law any further.
"I've always been a fan of the Giteau Law, I think it's pretty awesome to have your top players competing in Australia.
"I think everyone who's plying their trade overseas, they always want to put the gold jersey on, they'll put their hand up to have that opportunity.
"I can't speak too much on it since I'm overseas and it would work in my favour, but I think you've got to give those guys at home the opportunity to put the jersey on. They worked really hard to [push for Wallabies selection] in that Super Rugby AU competition and to ply their trade here.
"There's a lot of layers to it, again with COVID and these quarantines, but that's up to the big guys up top. I'm just trying to play some footy."
Meeting the Wallabies in Perth following two weeks' quarantine in Sydney, Kerevi witnessed the All Blacks reclaim the Bledisloe Cup for a 19th straight year from a hotel room. While the Wallabies were able to stay in touch with the All Blacks in the first Test, falling 33-25, they failed to do the same in the second falling to a demoralising -- and record -- 57-22 defeat.
Despite the score line, the tackle-busting centre believes there were still plenty of positives to come from Bledisloe II and hopes his inclusion will help push his teammates in their final trans-Tasman clash for 2021, whether that be from on- or off the field.
"They're [Wallabies] definitely moving in a positive way. I think the scoreline in the second game really glossed over a lot of positives that the boys made and a lot of inroads that they've been working on even from the first game.
"I think we've just got to stick at it, keep trusting our processes and the systems that the coaches have put in.
"We can keep moving forward; we're still a young group, we're still learning, and the toughest test is to learn on that level against the All Blacks.
"You can't look at the score line too much for us -- yeah it was disappointing, it was a disappointing result in the end -- but we just got to keep moving forward from there and take all the learnings we have, we've got two weeks to implement them now and into the next Test."
While the Wallabies flew to Perth on Sunday, the All Blacks chose to remain in Auckland to spend time with family before they traveled to Australia to potentially stay for the remainder of the Rugby Championship. But the recent level four lockdown in New Zealand has seen the third Test thrown into troubled waters with organisers unsure if the All Blacks will receive an exemption to fly into Perth.
West Australia premier Mark McGowan on Wednesday said he was unsure if the All Blacks would be granted an exemption to be in a bubble or if the game could go ahead. But he did rule out any chance for Rugby Championship clashes with the Springboks or Argentina to take place in Perth.
With the match on shaky ground and the possibility of the remainder of the Rugby Championship taken off-shore, Kerevi said his team's focus was on those factors they could control.
"If you start thinking about things you can't control, it'll creep into your prep, then creep into conversations with the boys, obviously there will be chat about it but we need to put that aside.
"We've got to have our full focus on just getting better each session, getting something out of each session that we're together so that we can implement all those learnings that we've taken from Bledisloe II and take them to the third game.
"Dave's got us training really well and the boys have got expectations on each other and on ourselves. But it doesn't matter if the All Blacks are locked down or not, they'll come out and they'll come out firing."