A World Cup quarter-final exit wasn’t the farewell Australia wanted for David Pocock and Will Genia but the two departing Wallabies were able to park their disappointment to express a sliver of gratitude on Saturday night.
The curtains came down on Pocock and Genia’s Test careers after Australia’s quarter-final loss to England, while prop Sekope Kepu’s farewell came a week earlier, though he didn’t know it at the time.
All three are playing overseas in 2020 and would be eligible to continue playing but all have made the call to step away from international rugby.
The trio joins a number of Australian greats to be left with a bitter quarter-final exit as their final taste of Test rugby, a number that includes George Gregan and Stephen Larkham from 2007.
Pocock was teenager when those legends made an early exit and he said on Saturday that he was conscious of the emotions of fans as much as himself after their defeat.
“You're knocked out in the quarters, there's a lot of disappointed people. you know what it was like as a young kid supporting the Wallabies and really riding the highs and lows so it's one of those things you're aware of,” he said.
With the final moments of Saturday’s match still fresh in his mind, Pocock was quick to express his thanks to rugby for all it has given him in a glittering career.
“Not how I thought I'd end, just cop it on the chin,” he said.
“I'll have time to reflect and incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have had in the Wallabies jersey and for the opportunities that rugby's given me as an immigrant moving to Australia, it's given me so much opportunity.
“I’m grateful for the support I've had in Australia and family and friends in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabweans all around the world now.
“A really disappointing way to end it, certainly. Put everything into tonight and came up short.”
Pocock will depart the Wallabies setup as one of Australia’s greatest ever flankers but as he moves on, he said he felt the game was in good hands.
“Every time you're going out there you're wanting to make people proud of the way you're going about your business and hopefully inspiring the next generation of boys and girls to want to play rugby for Australia.
“I feel like I've thrown myself into things over my career and a disappointing way to end but we do have some exciting talent coming through.”
Genia remained on the bench long after full-time in Oita, coming to terms with the defeat, before sitting on the turf and contemplating the situation.
The 110-Test halfback offered a sliver of reflection post-match, admitting it was hard to see the big picture so soon after their loss to England
“It's the end,” he said.
“I guess, I feel pretty gutted, pretty sad at the end. Obviously there was a bit of an outpouring of emotion after the game.
“It's been an amazing journey, I've been so blessed and so privileged to have lived my dream, very sad, but also really grateful.
“How lucky, I got to play 11 years for Australia and three World Cups so yeah.”
Looking back on his time as a Wallaby, Genia couldn’t help but feel pride when thinking ever so briefly about the big picture.
“I think I made the most of it,” he said, reflecting on his Test career.
“I never thought I was the most talented bloke, always wanted to be someone who worked hard to put myself in a position to play well and I finish on 110 Tests which I'm pretty proud of.”
Captain Michael Hooper was one of the most devastated after the game and admitted a major part of that emotion was the inability to give two of his long-standing teammates their fairytale.
“I've been a fan of those guys from being a young fella to now playing alongside them,” he said.
“I'm very proud to represent Australia with them and a lot of me wanted to be able to send those guys out how they deserved to but we weren't able to.
“It's part of the feeling, feeling pretty gutted.”
Beyond that trio, there are a host of players in the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad who may have played their final Test, at least for a while.
Adam Ashley-Cooper and Bernard Foley’s plans are unclear for 2020 in terms of international rugby while Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman, Christian Lealiifano and Samu Kerevi are all moving to overseas clubs after the tournament and won’t be eligible to play under the Giteau Law.