Peter Wallace had expected to be settling in Sydney right now, ready to complete his move from the Brisbane Broncos to the Penrith Panthers, but instead is preparing to face world champions New Zealand for a place in the World Cup semi-finals.
The 28-year-old scrum-half was forced to reschedule his return flight after Scotland continued their stunning World Cup campaign by topping their group to earn a tilt at the holders in tomorrow’s first quarter-final at Headingley.
Wallace, who qualifies for Scotland through his grandmother, has enjoyed a whirlwind three weeks in England after initially delaying his arrival in order to attend his best friend’s wedding.
“I couldn’t miss that,” he said. “I only missed a couple of days in camp and the warm-up game against PNG.”
After introducing himself to his new team-mates, Wallace quickly struck up an effective half-back partnership with skipper Danny Brough, the newly-crowned Man of Steel, that guided them to a crucial opening win over Tonga that sent confidence soaring.
“It was like the first day at school,” he said. “I only knew Kane [Linnett] and Duggie [Luke Douglas] from back home.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when we first started but, after that first game, we definitely thought we could make the quarter-finals and it’s great that we have.”
The Scots now face the ultimate challenge as they take on a Kiwis team that have moved serenely into the knockout stages and will be returning to the scene of their 56-10 rout of Papua New Guinea in their final group game a week earlier.
“They’re a great team,” Wallace said. “We’ve just to go into the game not worrying about them too much, just put our best performance out there and see what happens. If we do that, we will hold our heads up high.
“Obviously myself, Kane and Duggie play against them every week so we sort of know a bit more about them than the other blokes and we can give a few pointers here and there. For the boys it’s a massive thrill being able to play against New Zealand.
“We’re going into the game confident. We’ve had three great performances and we’re undefeated so you can’t really ask for better preparation going into a big game like this.”
Win or lose, Wallace, who has played for New South Wales in the annual State of Origin series against Queensland, considered the toughest environment in world rugby league, rates Scotland’s most successful World Cup campaign among the highlights of his career.
“It’s right up there,” he said. “The fact that no one gave us a chance, and being such a new team as well, it’s pretty special to be a part of.
“They’re all good fellas, too. Everyone gets on great and I’m just happy for the boys that we’ve been able to do it.
“It’s been a great trip, a great experience and a pleasure representing Scotland.”
The only downside for Wallace has been the absence of any matches in Scotland, with Steve McCormack’s team playing group games in Cumbria and Manchester.
“That was very disappointing, especially when I got over here and learnt that Ireland, Wales and France all had a game in their own country,” he said.
“We got pretty close in Workington I suppose, but it would have been great to have played in Scotland. I went up to Edinburgh for a night and had a look at the castles and stuff like that.
“It’s a beautiful place and I just thought it would have been great to have a few days up there as a team and play a game there. That would have been a bit special.”