All Blacks Sevens rookie Salesi Rayasi always dreamed of heading to the US for sport – but for a time he never thought it would be for the rugby sevens World Cup.
Rayasi was the shock selection in this year’s squad heading to San Francisco, after playing just three tournaments, a feat made even more remarkable after he gave up rugby two years ago while training with Canterbury.
"I left high school and went to Canterbury academy," Rayasi said.
"I spent a year down there and sort of just didn't feel like rugby was a passion for me."
At the time, basketball was.
The 6-foot-4 point guard wanted to reunite with high school mentor Kenny McFadden, the man who guided Kiwi star Steven Adams to the NBA.
The plan was a US college scholarship, but being the son of Wellington and Fijian international winger Filipe Rayasi saw his path change again.
"Mum and dad just said, 'have one more go at rugby,' so I went on tour with the Samoa under 20s."
Fast forward to this year, Rayasi broke into the Sevens circuit, impressing in Hong Kong, Paris and London.
Coach Craig Laidlaw said he was impressed by Tayasi’s ability to make something from nothing.
"His ability to maybe come on and break a game open, if we need it, could be real crucial."
It's a welcome addition for a side hit with injuries to 2013 World Cup winner Sam Dickson and newcomer Etene Nanai-Seturo.