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Somerville says goodbye

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NZPA     02 Sep 2008     Getty Images

Keeping standards high and beating Samoa convincingly in the most low-key fixture of the year will be enough to satisfy Somerville when he trudges off Yarrow Stadium, having played his final Test on New Zealand soil.

The All Blacks' most capped Test prop will only have offshore opportunities to add to his Test tally -- currently 63 -- before taking up a 2-1/2 year contract with English club Gloucester in the new year.

"I suppose it will be a bit significant but I haven't dwelled on it," Somerville said.

"I haven't dwelled on a hell of a lot this year."

Somerville's last Test could be next week in the Philips Tri Nations finale against Australia in Brisbane as his place on the season-ending Grand Slam tour to Europe is in doubt.

Coach Graham Henry must decide whether to test out some younger options on that tour or lean on the services of Canterbury bookend Somerville, whose experience could be a valuable tool in terms of performance and player development.

"I've still to got to work through it with the coaches," Somerville said of his touring prospects.

"There are a few things to discuss."

Somerville admits rising for the lightweight challenge of an under-strength Samoa could be a difficult for his teammates, with the Brisbane decider 10 days having serious distraction potential.

"(Samoa) are as good as we're going to get. We have to make the most of what we've been given, I suppose," he said.

"It's better than having no game."

Somerville, hooker Andrew Hore and loosehead prop Tony Woodcock can boast a combined tally of 139 caps, making them the second most experienced starting front row in All Blacks Test history.

That list is headed by arguably New Zealand's finest front row combination of hooker Sean Fitzpatrick and props Olo Brown and Craig Dowd, who could count 171 Tests between them when they faced Australia at Dunedin in 1997.

Somerville is the only member of tomorrow's squad involved in the most recent All Blacks' Test against Samoa, the 50-6 win at Albany in 2001. He made his Test debut at the same ground exactly one year earlier alongside Troy Flavell and Doug Howlett in a 102-point romp against Tonga.

The only Samoan player tomorrow who was involved in the 2001 match is flanker Semo Sititi, who was also the captain seven years ago.

Sititi has ceded that role to lock Filipo Levi but remains easily the most experienced member of the touring squad with 64 Tests.

The next on the Samoan list are the 12 caps each for Japan-based Levi and Apia halfback Notise Tauafao.

There will be two players making their Test debut for Samoa tomorrow -- fullback Alatasi Tupou and winger Reupena Levasa.

Somerville will pack down against Simon Lemalu of Counties Manukau, the only New Zealand-based player among the Samoan starting 15.