It has been two weeks since Wales wrapped up their autumn internationals with victory over Australia, which is just about enough time for teenage debutant Christ Tshiunza to come back down to earth.
The 19-year-old lock was preparing for a run-out with Exeter University when he got the call from Wales head coach Wayne Pivac to say he had been included in his 38-man autumn series squad.
Tshiunza was told from the outset that he was not there to make up the numbers, and that at 6ft 6in and 17st 6lb he offered something nobody else in the country could in terms of his physical attributes.
Proof of that statement came when he won a first senior cap as a replacement against Fiji and then a second against the Wallabies, during which he made a vital tackle on full-back Kurtley Beale in the final minute of the game.
“It’s been a crazy couple of weeks,” said Tshiunza.
“Coming on against Fiji, it was a very good experience.
“There was not a single ounce of nervousness. I didn’t have it in me to feel any other emotion – I was so happy just to be there. I ran out with a smile on my face and the whole game I was playing with a smile on my face.
“I was really grateful that people were able to come and watch, especially my old school teacher [Steve Williams] who got me into rugby. I was only able to be in that stadium because of him so it meant a lot to see him. A few tears were shed.”
Tshiunza gifted Williams his shirt after the game, just as he had done when he made his first youth appearance for Wales.
He also shared a touching gesture made by his former Wales Under-20 coach Gareth Williams.
“The day of the [Fiji] game I woke up to a little slip [of paper] under my door,” Tshiunza added.
“It just said I’ve got no pressure, just to relax and enjoy the day.”
Tshiunza enjoyed his first taste of the Wales camp and “got along very well with Liam Williams”, as well as former Exeter team-mates Tomas Francis and Alex Cuthbert, both of whom now play for Ospreys.
He describes fellow lock Adam Beard as a “really good lad” who helped bring him up to speed after missing the first autumn Test against New Zealand.
Tshiunza says there were a few surprises as he got to know the squad, adding: “There were a few characters that I thought would be more serious than they were.
“Going into that environment, in the back of my head I was thinking it would be really serious, but seeing the boys like Nick Tompkins for example, and how he would come down and be a jokey person, made me relax.”
Tshiunza is currently nursing a slight hamstring injury which kept him from making his fifth appearance for Exeter Chiefs last weekend, but says it is “nothing serious”.
“I’m just getting that treated to make sure it doesn’t become a bigger problem,” he said.
He hopes to add to his Chiefs tally once back to fitness and also has his sights set on the 2022 Six Nations after some positive feedback from Pivac.
“He sounded impressed, so I’ll take that,” Tshiunza added.
“He gave me a few rugby-specific work-ons, but I think the main message he wanted me to know was that this wasn’t just a one-off, that I’ve actually got a potential chance.
“The Six Nations is a genuine goal for me.”