"I stood there for a bit. I thought he was joking," was Bundee Aki's immediate reaction when Andy Farrell told him he was going to captain Ireland against the Maori All Blacks on Wednesday.
The game will be played in Hamilton at the home of the Chiefs, the team with which Aki won a Super Rugby title in 2013, a year before he joined Connacht.
"It's a huge honour to be asked by Faz, and to be able to lead the boys," said Aki.
"A very proud moment for myself and my family. A kid from south Auckland, not many opportunities come your way."
It was confirmed on Tuesday that the All Blacks have another case of Covid-19 in their camp. Fullback Will Jordan joins fellow players David Havili and Jack Goodhue, along with head coach Ian Foster, forwards coach John Plumtree and defence coach Scott McLeod in being struck down by the illness.
"We're in the same boat ourselves," said Farrell.
"We have one case (Mack Hansen), and could have a few more cases by the end of the week, we don't know. This is the way of the world. The motto of the tour is definitely being adaptable. I mean, when you look at our situation, it's not far off what's happening with the All Blacks anyway.
"Our preparation is completely different to what it would normally be. We are training with a squad of 23 guys who are getting ready for a Maori game and then we've got 13 or 14 guys who are getting ready for a test match.
"So, the test match boys are not training with the subs. We are waiting to see how the Wednesday night game goes, who is going to get picked to take to the field in the 23 for the Test match.
"We picked that on purpose because we want to be adaptable. We want to put ourselves under pressure. I am sure the All Blacks are thinking the same."
Ireland play the All Blacks this Saturday in the first test of their three-match series. Among the All Blacks coaches will be Joe Schmidt. The former Ireland head coach was due to join the New Zealand setup following the series but has been drafted in early due to the Covid-19 cases.
"Ah, I don't know if it's head-to-head," said Farrell when asked about going up against the man under whom he was an assistant coach with Ireland
"I am sure Fozzy (Ian Foster) will be around somewhere. I think Joe is just helping out by being an extra pair of hands. I am sure that Joe is just fitting into the system.
"I am supposed to be meeting him for a coffee on Thursday. I don't know whether that's out of the question now or not, but we'll soon see."