Scott Fardy was faced with a stark choice when the tsunami hit the coast of Japan in March 2011.
Safely inland when the water surged ashore, Fardy was told the Australian government would evacuate him as soon as possible.
He refused. Fardy had built too strong a bond with Kamaishi, the town where he had lived and played rugby for two years, to leave in their hour of need.
“To me, it wasn’t a tough decision,” he says firmly.
“The option came from the Australian government, they came and said ‘do you want to get out of here?’ “I said: ‘No, let’s send the women and children home. That was the option we took. Most people would take the same option.
“I had been living in the town for two-and-a-half years at that stage, had some roots there and decided it was necessary for me to stay and show face in what was a tough time.”
Fardy tells this story from the luxury of a south-west London hotel, and his life has changed drastically in the past four years. When the Wallabies were last in training for a World Cup he was using his bulk to assist the rescue efforts in an area where more than 1,200 people died.
This weekend he will be lining up for Michael Cheika’s side in their quarter-final with Scotland. In sport’s constant search for perspective, Fardy’s story is particularly poignant.
“It is something I do look back on and think about,” he said.
“Four years ago I was there, now I’m in a World Cup.
“I don’t think it is something that drives me as such, it was just a moment in my life. Things were bad, and it happened. It doesn’t drive my rugby.
“I never suffered in any way shape or form. I was there at the time and had to make a decision.
“I made the decision to stay and help. People I hung around with — any guy in this team would have made the same decision.
“You probably saw the way that we played on the weekend (against Wales), down to 13 men. They make those tough decisions and do the tough things. To me it wasn’t a tough decision as they are the kind of people we surround ourselves with.”
Fardy’s role in the effort — he lost over a stone in weight during the aftermath — is remembered by his former neighbours.
“I saw some people (from Kamaishi) after the Wales game, they came up and said hello,” he smiles.
“They asked for photos, and you often get messages on Facebook, which I appreciate. They say good luck, send old and embarrassing photos.”
Yet as with his rugby, Fardy would prefer it if his role remained among the shadows. He is at pains to make it clear he was not on the front-line, and would baulk at anyone describing him as a hero.
“I was just unloading trucks really, taking supplies and reloading the little vans that would go out to the village.
“Nothing (compared to) other people saw and faced in those circumstances. Other people had to do so much awful stuff during that period.
“I didn’t have to do it, see it or be a part of it. They deserve any press that goes their way as they were amazing.
“The Japanese people were unbelievable, the way they looked after each other in that tough time and stayed calm. It was incredible to be part of the country at that time.”
Without being glib, Fardy takes a similar approach to his rugby. He views himself as the heavy lifter of the back row, while Michael Hooper and David Pocock take the plaudits. Yet Scotland should underestimate him at their peril this weekend.
“I prefer to be in the shadows, to be honest,” he says. “I am there to help out the other guys that are the really good performers, the Hoopers, Pococks and (Kane) Douglases.
“I help them be better players and do little things that make them perform to what they can. That’s my role in the side and hopefully I can help them out.”
Fardy has come a long way in four years.
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