WANDERERS centre Lewie Catt all but dismissed the prospect of playing opposite Irish centre and world rugby powerhouse Brian O’Driscoll when it was first raised.
The 25-year-old electrical engineer had been named in a 40-man preliminary Combined Country squad to take on the British and Irish Lions.
The list was comprised predominantly of fringe Super Rugby players. Just making the train-on squad was satisfaction enough for the Novocastrian.
That was a fortnight ago.
Tomorrow night a scenario that Catt had only dreamt about will play true after he was named at outside centre for the Combined Country side to battle the Lions at Hunter Stadium. Opposite him will be O’Driscoll, one of the biggest names in world rugby.
‘‘It is what dreams are made of,’’ Catt told the Herald after the team announcement yesterday.
‘‘I have an opportunity to play against the best centre in wold rugby for the past decade.
‘‘He is a superstar, there is no other word for it.
‘‘Brian O’Driscoll is the equivalent to a Billy Slater or Greg Inglis – it doesn’t matter what sport you play or follow, everyone knows them.
‘‘When he was out here last time, he basically did what he wanted at will.’’
In a game of mismatches, Catt’s task is arguably the greatest.
O’Driscoll, with 125 Tests, is the most capped centre in world rugby, second overall to George Gregan (136), has led his country to Six Nations and Grand Slam success and is on his fourth Lions tour.
Until now, Catt’s crowning moment was helping Hamilton to a 46-0 rout over Merewether in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union grand final last season.
The biggest crowd he had fronted was a couple of thousand early arrivals at a Super 15 game when NSW Country played a curtain raiser at Allianz Stadium.
‘‘I will be a bit nervous running out,’’ he said.
‘‘The aim will be to get in early and get a first touch.’’
It is an approach Combined Country coach Cam Blades wants every player to adopt on the night.
The odds couldn’t be staked higher against the locals.
Beau Robinson, who still has to be cleared after suffering a sickening head knock for the Reds against the Lions on Saturday night, is the sole Wallaby in the squad – he has one cap against Samoa in 2011.
Captain Tim Davidson, with 39 Super Rugby caps, is the next most recognisable name.
The remainder have a handful of Super Rugby appearances, mainly off the bench, or in the case of Catt and centre partner Junior Siakisini (Gold Coast) are experiencing a whole new world.
Recently turned 25, Catt, who played juniors for the Newcastle Knights, holds aspirations of joining the professional ranks.
‘‘Being in camp for the past couple of days I have had a taste of it,’’ he said.
‘‘I am jealous of the boys who get to live this type of life.’’
Robinson, fellow back-rower Jarrad Butler and lock Blake Enever were the final Super Rugby players to join the squad yesterday after being in Brisbane for the Reds’ 22-12 loss to the Lions on Saturday.
COMBINED COUNTRY: 1 Haydn Hirsimaki, 2 Josh Mann-Rae, 3 Tim Metcher, 4 Battye Phoenix, 5 Blake Enever, 6 Jarrad Butler, 7 Beau Robinson, 8 Tim Davidson (c), 9 Michael Snowden, 10 Angus Roberts, 11 Tom Cox, 12 Junior Siakisini, 13 Lewie Catt, 14 Alex Gibbon, 15 Nathan Trist, 16 Tom Kearney, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 Rikki Abraham, 19 Richard Stanford, 20 Trent Dyer, 21 Adam McCormack, 22 Ben Greentree, 23 Dale Ah-Wong
LIONS: 1 Alex Corbisiero, 2 Richard Hibbard, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Richie Gray, 5 Ian Evans, 6 Sean O’Brien, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 James Heaslip, 9 Conor Murray, 10 Stuart Hogg, 11 George North, 12 Jamie Roberts, 13 Brian O’Driscoll’, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 15 Sean Maitland. Res: 16 Rory Best, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Toby Faletau, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Jonathan Davies, 23 Leigh Halfpenny