Dragons flanker Gavin Thomas admits he thought he would never play for Wales again.
The inform openside will start Saturday’s clash with the All Blacks having believed that his time with Wales had been and gone.
Thomas hasn’t played international rugby for three years and he is honest enough to state that he questioned whether he would get another chance.
But having starred for a Dragons side who won plenty of plaudits for their Magners League efforts last season, Thomas now can’t wait for his ultimate test this weekend.
"I'm looking forward to this game more than I have any others," said Thomas, who moved to Rodney Parade after his contract was terminated by the Scarlets last summer following his struggle to overcome an Achilles injury.
"I didn't think it would happen. It's here and I need to do something about it. This is a performance I need to get right.
"I'm a more rounded player now. I just practice harder now, to be honest. Then I took it for granted that I could do it and keep up. Now I want to impress myself on people, on the opposition."
Thomas will go head-to-head with the world’s premier No7 in Dunedin when he takes on the might of New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw.
But while 32-year-old Thomas is fully aware of the challenge posed by the All Blacks as a whole, he won’t be overawed, particularly as he more than any other player appears to have adapted best to the new laws at the breakdown.
"They are quality players and deserve to be respected but we are just men against men at the end of the day," added Thomas, who will be winning his 23rd cap at Carisbrook after injury ruled Sam Warburton and Martyn Williams was rested.
"Obviously we need to have respect for them on Saturday but we need to pile into them and get stuck into them too.
"I like them (the new law interpreations). You can't go to the floor with people and hold on at the same time. You need to release and there's a bit more counter-rucking and those sorts of things and that seems to have helped me.
"But you can give more penalties away, that's for sure. You've got to be careful. I'm doing all right with it but we'll see on Saturday."