It has been a big six months for Jimmy Gopperth, but the Wellington fly-half insists playing against Jonny Wilkinson will top the lot.
Gopperth will make his first start for Wellington on Wednesday against the British & Irish Lions. Despite never having pulled on the number 10 jersey for his province, he has already impressed many during a stellar debut Super 12 season with the Hurricanes and made it to an All Blacks trial.
The 21-year-old, who was a member of the New Zealand Under-21 World Cup winning team in 2004, was plucked from the Hurricanes development squad this season to cover a shortage at fly-half following the departure of David Holwell to Ireland.
But instead of warming the bench behind Riki Flutey, who had been earmarked for the starting pivot role, Gopperth found himself thrust into the spotlight when Flutey was injured and took to it like a duck to water.
Gopperth started every match and his performances helped the Hurricanes reach the semi-finals for just the third time in the 10-year history of the competition.
His efforts also earned him a spot on the Possibles bench at the recent All Blacks trial.
But Gopperth says running out at Westpac Stadium on Wednesday opposite England's World Cup-winning hero will surpass all that.
"It's just a big opportunity for me and I'm looking forward to it. It will be a highlight of my career. To not even start an NPC (National Provincial Championship) game yet and to have a start against a team like this is huge.
"It has [been a big six months for me] with the Super 12 going well and everything going well. It's been a good season.
"To play against a guy like Jonny makes my year just that much better. He's outstanding. His kicking skills and his knowledge of the game are just top order. To go up against him and match my skills up against him you can't put into words really."
Gopperth is also excited by the prospect of getting to swap jerseys with his world-class opposite number.
"That's the first thing I'm doing [after the game]. It will be my first Wellington jersey but that's priceless that [Jonny Wilkinson's] jersey."
Gopperth however, is not so star struck that he sees the Lions, who are fielding close to a Test-strength team, as unbeatable.
"We're going to be playing a proper structured game and hoping to get on top of these guys.
"They will come out firing. They will be a bit upset with losing that [game against the New Zealand Maori]. They will come out firing but so will we. It's going to be a good game."