No rugby player ever wants to sit in the stands watching his team play and for All Blacks veteran Mils Muliaina it has been no different at RWC 2011.
But as the New Zealand full back prepares to claim his 100th Test cap against Argentina at Eden Park on Sunday, Muliaina believes his time on the sidelines has made reaching the milestone all the more important.
"Every time you go out there it's special, and no more so than in the last couple of weeks really,” he said following the All Blacks team announcement.
“When I haven't been out there, the realisation of how special it is to be out there has sunk in a little bit more.
"It is a lot of Test matches, but it's something that I'm honoured to have been able to do and I'm just looking forward to getting out there and getting some more game time."
Muliaina, perched on 98 Test caps at the start of the tournament, faced the prospect of not reaching the 100 mark as young full back Israel Dagg staked his claim to the No.15 jersey with impressive displays in New Zealand’s opening two matches.
The 31-year-old started his 99th Test match against Canada last week but admitted he was nervous about whether Graham Henry would give him a start in Sunday’s quarter-final.
However, the coach believes Muliaina has earned his place for the match.
"He’s been a great servant to New Zealand rugby,” Henry said. “He's a world-class full back who's been a key member of this side for a very long time. It's such a special occasion for him and he deserves the honour."
The former Waikato Chiefs full back made his international debut in 2003 against England in Wellington, and while he does not recall the score so fondly (New Zealand lost), Muliaina still remembers the day.
Pain of losing
“I came off the bench and I only got two or three minutes,” he said. “To get out there and play for the first time and put the All Blacks jersey on for the first time was something special. I suppose it was a long time ago now.”
As Muliaina prepares to join Japanese club NTT Docomo next year, he says the decision to remain in New Zealand until now was driven by what happened four years ago when the All Blacks were knocked out of Rugby World Cup 2007 by France in the quarter-finals.
“There’s no doubt,” he said. “When I made the decision to stay here, this is what it was for. You know, I was getting on a little bit, still am, but this is the World Cup that I really want to come back in and hopefully do things right.
“I suppose the pain of losing back in ’07 has probably eased a heck of a lot more but it’s four years ago now, we’re here now and I can’t wait to get out there and play knockout football."
New Zealand take on Argentina at Eden Park on Sunday.