Ma'a Nonu 'honoured and privileged' to win 100 caps for New Zealand
New Zealand centurion Ma'a Nonu feared a broken arm had wrecked his bid to join the elite band of All Blacks with 100 caps.
The 33-year-old thought his hopes of making it to three figures were over after sustaining the break in a Rugby Championship clash with South Africa a year ago.
But head coach Steven Hansen retained faith in the new Toulon signing and he was able to reach the milestone in Friday's 47-9 thumping of Tonga in Newcastle - joining Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Dan Carter and Mils Muliaina in winning 100 caps for the world champions.
A special night started with the centre running out onto the St James' Park pitch by himself to take the acclaim of the crowd, then saw him mark the occasion with the seventh and final try in a resounding All Blacks win before he was carried off the field shoulder-high by his team-mates.
Nonu said: "I was very lucky to get the pitch all to myself. Having that time out there was special.
"I wanted to play it down, really, and just get out there and play, but Kieran Read was telling me 'no' and that I had to go by myself, but it was good.
"Getting towards 100 caps looked like a long shot last year when I broke my arm, but it came round so quickly.
"I just feel really honoured and privileged that I've made it this far and I couldn't have done it without the help of my family and the All Blacks.
"I was pretty stoked to get the try too. I was shouting for it really loudly and just grateful to Nehe Milner-Skudder that he passed."
Friday night's victory was New Zealand's forth straight triumph and displayed a little more fluidity after stuttering wins over Argentina, Namibia and Georgia.
Yet they still topped Pool C with a near-perfect 19 points and now look forward to playing a last-eight clash with the loser of Sunday's Pool D decider between Ireland and France in Cardiff.
Fly-half Carter, however, knows it is now time for the All Blacks to really click into gear.
He said: "There are no guarantees. We need to be the best we can be.
"The Millennium Stadium is an amazing stadium and probably my favourite to play at in the world.
"It's going to be such an important game. A quarter-final is something that really excites me and the rest of this team.
"Both Ireland and France have played extremely well but for us it doesn't really matter who we play, to be honest. Whoever we come up against is going to be a huge challenge and one that we're really going to have to step up for."