Veteran full-back Mils Muliaina will be out to grab his opportunity with both hands when he turns out for New Zealand against Canada.
One of the elder statesman of the All Blacks, Muliaina will win his 99th cap on Sunday, usurping young pretender Israel Dagg from full-back.
Dagg has arguably been the stand-out performer of the World Cup, a predator in attack and rock solid in defence, with doubts arising over whether Muliaina would actually add to his 98 international appearances.
But the veteran, who has been acting as a water boy during New Zealand’s three pool matches to date, is back in the fold - Dagg moving to the right wing to accommodate him.
“The last couple of weeks have been pretty good, running out and hearing some of the things that come through the radio your ear,” said the 31-year-old.
“Certainly, to be part of it this week is pretty exciting.
“I always knew I was going to play the Tonga game so it was a bit of a disappointment to have to pull myself out of that (with a hamstring problem).
“But after watching the game and how fast it was, it was probably a blessing because I would have probably done some bigger damage.”
Muliaina, who has signed a two-year contract with Japanese club NTT Docomo from next year, said he and team-mates picked for the Canada match would have to up the ante to keep the momentum rolling for the quarter-finals.
“It’s been a long three weeks but the environment has been really good. The boys are playing some really good footie, they’ve set a benchmark and now it’s an opportunity to go out there and raise it,” he said.
“The form that Israel’s shown has been outstanding. He was man of the match last week and he’s really taken a step forward and taken his opportunities.
“Now we get an opportunity to go out there and make sure we don’t drop from those standards.”
The full-back, who has also played at centre and on the wing for the All Blacks, said that he was not focusing on winning 100 caps, something captain Richie McCaw did last week.
“It’s just a number. A lot of people talk about it, even walking in the street,” he said.
“You realise how important it is to be in the All Black jersey when you haven’t played for a few weeks.
“Every time you go out there is special because you just don’t know when it’s going to be your last.
“First of all, I’ve got to make sure that I do this week right. The only cap I’m focusing on is this one this week.”
All Blacks coach Graham Henry said there had been no sentiment involved in the selection of Muliaina ahead of the in-form Dagg.
“No, not at all,” said Henry, who will be celebrating his 100th All Blacks Test match along with assistants Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith.
“He’s part of this group. He’s been an outstanding player and he needs to play.
“Israel has been playing very well and he got player of the day last week and played exceptionally well, which is very pleasing, but Mils has played 98 games for the All Blacks and has been an outstanding All Black for a long time.
“So it’s a major challenge for both of them and that’s good for the team.”