A lucrative European rugby stint appears to have paid off for recalled Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell.
Yet the 63-Test Australian flyer admits a career in the armed services once seemed more likely.
Mitchell looks set to earn a bench nod for Saturday night’s Rugby Championship opener against South Africa in Brisbane when the squad is finalised on Thursday.
Like French club Toulon teammate Matt Giteau, Mitchell looks set to earn a Wallabies callup after the ARU changed eligibility rules for overseas-based players who have at least 60 Test caps.
It keeps him on track for a third World Cup campaign this year.
Despite shining for Toulon since his overseas switch in 2013, it remains to be seen if Mitchell can still fire a shot in the international scene.
But the 31-year-old admitted he would have been taking aim one way or another thanks to his family.
Mitchell’s grandad Rex, his father Gordon and elder brothers Zane and Bronsen have all embraced the Australian army lifestyle.
And he reckons he would have been very close to following if his rugby career had fallen through.
“I grew up in the army environment – maybe if this football thing didn’t work out I would have been (in the army),” he said.
“My brothers weren’t the greatest students going around, and neither was I for that matter, but they found something that they loved.”
Not that Mitchell’s rugby career looks like it’s winding up any time soon – much to his surprise.
He overcame an horrific ankle injury to make the 2011 Rugby World Cup squad, only to tear a hamstring in the final pool group.
But after his departure to Europe two years ago, Mitchell admitted he thought the only Wallabies gear he would be wearing in the future would be as a fan.
“In some ways I am lucky that the rules have changed so I can sneak in with the criteria – I didn’t think I would be picked again,” he said.
Giteau’s selection at inside centre and whether national coach Michael Cheika opts for incumbent Wallabies No.7 Michael Hooper or fit-again ex-skipper David Pocock are the key debates ahead of Thursday’s team announcement.
Mitchell admitted it was the most open Wallabies squad in years.
“It’s a reflection of where the guys are at,” he said.
“In a World Cup year, everyone wants to be involved and make it as difficult as they can for Michael Cheika at selection time.
“Usually if you get a bib at training you can work out who is playing, but here the bibs are changing on a regular basis.”