7 jersey against Japan in Tokyo on Saturday.
The legacy surrounding his position is one of the most enduring in the All Blacks history.
"Looking at that jersey [No.7] I'm filling some big shoes. The best player in the world has played in that position – Richie McCaw. I'm dreaming of the moment just before kick-off and I'm putting it on. I don't know what's going to happen…a lot of emotions, but it's a special feeling," he said.
"I want to try and do my bit for that jersey and go from there."
Things had happened faster than Papali'i anticipated when heading into the 2018 season and initially he had been aiming for the odd start and time on the bench for the Blues, but injuries had accelerated his promotion.
Now being in the All Blacks he was aware that things could change in a short period of time.
"I never thought I would be an All Black this year so everything that comes to me I like to set goals in periods. My goal right now is to try and impact in the All Blacks' jersey and to help this team be successful," he said.
"You dream all your life about being in this position. Every little kid growing up wants to be in this position to hear your name being called out," he said.
Having Blues teammates alongside had made the transition easier, especially around getting into the culture of the All Blacks so quickly.
"So even though it's a first time, it's a special occasion but when you go out there standards don't change," he said.
Papali'i said he had enjoyed having extra time in Japan among the experienced loose forwards like Kieran Read and Ardie Savea.
"Getting a connection with those boys can help me filter with these new boys," he said.
Prop Ofa Tuungafasi said it was awesome to have Papali'i in the side. He had seen the work he had put in last year and this year and he never doubted that one day he would be a part of the All Blacks.
Named at loosehead prop, instead of his more traditional tighthead, Tuungafasi said it was his role to be able to play both sides. Making the transition was helped by having scrum coach Mike Cron on hand, along with the props who were in the side.
That allowed him to build confidence earlier in the week so that by the end of the week he trusted himself to handle the role on the basis of the work that had gone in.
??? TEAM NAMING | Eight debutants named in All Blacks side to face Japan in Tokyo this Saturday.
READ ?? https://t.co/SJ6B0qNmlp
?? The Test will be available to live stream, FOR FREE! Find out if your region is available to live stream here ?? https://t.co/SekDP2kxx9 pic.twitter.com/sJNGGn9pUd— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 1, 2018