Former Australia international Petero Civoniceva is relishing the prospect of a big finish to his career after leading Fiji to a second successive Rugby League World Cup semi-final appearance.
The 37-year-old prop, Australia’s most-capped forward with 45 appearances, delayed his retirement in order to lead his native country at the tournament and once more led from the front as they overcame Samoa 22-4 in Sunday’s fourth quarter-final at Warrington.
It means Civoniceva will bring the curtain down on his career either against the Kangaroos at Wembley on Saturday or, if the Fijians pull off a shock win, at Old Trafford a week later.
“It was something we didn’t talk about because all our focus and preparation was on this game but we can talk about Wembley now,” Civoniceva said after Penrith centre Wes Naiqama scored 14 of his side’s points in an impressive win.
“It’s great feeling to know that potentially my last game will be played at (one of) two amazing venues.
“I feel I’ve been very blessed. I started this rugby league ride in 1998 and to be still here, I feel very proud of that.
“I’m really looking forward to enjoying the week, taking it all in with my teammates.”
Fiji dominated Sunday’s game at the Halliwell Jones Stadium from start to finish, with man-of-the-match Aaron Groom scoring one try and setting up another for Naiqama, who also kicked five goals.
“We didn’t play perfectly in every aspect of the game but to only let in one try was a massive boost for us,” Fiji coach Rick Stone said.
“I’m really proud of the boys.
“All our experienced NRL players stood up for us today.”
Samoa’s only response was a 58th-minute try from winger Antonio Winterstein.
“We didn’t play that well but overall I’m happy with the tournament,” said Samoa coach Matt Parish.
The Fijians’ comfortable win not only earned them a second meeting with the Kangaroos inside a month but is expected to secure a place in the 2014 Four Nations Series in Australia.
“It would be great to get an invitation to do that,” Stone said.
“I’ve got a lot of good young players, both in Fiji and in the NRL coming through for Fiji.”
The lure of a Four Nations spot will not tempt Civoniceva into postponing his retirement plans.
“My wife won’t let me,” he said.
“They say ‘happy wife, happy life’, don’t they?
“I’d definitely love to be a part of the development of rugby league in Fiji and mentoring the young players coming through.”
Fiji’s meeting with the Kangaroos – who demolished the USA 62-0 on Saturday – at Wembley will follow a Group A clash between the sides in St Helens a fortnight ago, when the Kangaroos triumphed 34-2.
Holders New Zealand will face England in Saturday’s other semi-final.