As he limped into the dressing rooms at Villa Park at halftime of the Wallabies’ thrashing of Uruguay, Wycliff Palu knew his Test career was over.
The 33-year-old, who carried an injury to his right hamstring into the World Cup and has struggled throughout his career with the troublesome muscles, felt his left hamstring go early in the 62-point victory.
He soldiered on until the break, but knew he wouldn’t be coming out for the second half – and that it was his last chance to cherish wearing the gold jersey.
It hit him with full force once Australia took the field to resume their demolition and he was left to sit and contemplate his latest cruel injury blow in an empty dressing room.
“I had a moment there where it was pretty emotional for me,” Palu said.
“I kind of knew it was my last chance wearing the green and gold jersey.
“I felt a bit numb and probably going into the sheds afterwards, halftime and obviously not coming back out I was pretty gutted.
“But that’s just rugby.”
The hulking No.8, who was on Tuesday ruled out of the remainder of the Rugby World Cup with the injury, will now join Japanese side Toyota Verblitz on a two-year deal.
With 57 Tests to his name, he falls short of the recently-approved 60-Test threshold for overseas players.
Palu has had to scrap for every one of his Test caps and says he achieved most of what he wanted from his international career – save for how it ended.
“I feel like I’ve crawled all this way (to get to 57 Tests),” he said.
“The most disappointing for me now is that I felt I didn’t really get to fire a shot in these last few games I had with the Wallabies.
“I’ve enjoyed my time in the gold jersey and I’m really thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given.”
He leaves the team in good shape and jokes that he was likely to have a hard time fighting his way back into the world-class back-row – especially with the impressive David Pocock, so effective at openside flanker, taking to No.8 with great success in recent months.
“I think when we got into that Uruguay game it was probably going to be my last game regardless whether I (got) injured or not,” he said.
“You look at our backrowers and it’s probably the strongest position in our squad by far.
“(But) I’m 33 and this was always my last World Cup.
“If (coach Michael Cheika) was to give me a call and say come and play another Bledisloe Cup, I’d probably be lucky to even get out of bed.”