On June 9 2012, Aaron Smith and Brodie Retallick wore the All Blacks jersey for the first time, together.
On October 29 2023 (NZ time), they’ll be side by side to do it for the last time, in the Rugby World Cup final against South Africa.
For more than a decade, the pair have formed a key part of the All Blacks’ spine, winning the World Cup in 2015, reaching the semi-finals in 2019, and having the chance for a second title again on Sunday.
Against Ireland at Eden Park, in a 42-10 victory, Retallick and Smith became All Blacks Nos.1110 and 1112 respectively.
Now, both players will call time on their All Blacks careers regardless of the result against the Springboks, having signed deals to move to Japan in 2024.
And in their final days as All Blacks, the feat of finishing at the same time isn’t lost on Retallick.
“It’ll be cool alright,” said Retallick. “We’ve played a lot of footy together.
“We debuted on the same night, and we’re going to finish together. It’s pretty cool.
“He’s obviously a massive part of our group. Even last week when he scored that try [against Argentina], I said ‘jeez, you’ve still got it, mate’.
“It’s special, I know he’s going to relish it. I hope he goes well, and the forward pack gives him the platform he deserves.”
Sunday will also see Retallick finish his career against the Springboks, the All Blacks’ greatest rivals.
Retallick has met South Africa in two previous World Cups, winning in both 2015 and 2019.
But with the two nations contesting their first final since the Springboks’ historic 1995 triumph, this one will be different altogether.
However, preparing to bid the All Blacks farewell, Retallick couldn’t have asked for a better challenge.
“It’s awesome, you can’t really put it into words,” he said. “To be in the Rugby World Cup final – I was lucky enough to experience it in 2015.
“To come here and spend my last game in the jersey, have my last game and have the opportunity to actually win it again, if you want to call it a fairytale ending.
“It definitely beats where we were four years ago, playing for third and fourth.”
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