Oliver Gildart will be cheering on Great Britain from afar after returning to the UK from the Lions tour.
The Wigan centre is due to meet a surgeon tomorrow ahead of a scheduled operation next week on a dislocated shoulder.
He suffered the injury in GB’s opening tour defeat to the Tongans which ruled him out of the first of two Tests against New Zealand. He stayed on for a few days at coach Wayne Bennett’s invitation – and has now departed with some fond memories, despite his own bad luck.
Gildart said: “It’s pretty tough, you don’t plan to get injured especially on trips like this and I’m gutted to be leaving the boys.
“But I’ve had some great memories and made some friends for life.
“Wayne has been brilliant, as have all the staff, checking up on me. Wayne wanted me here as long as I could, he knows it’s not just about rugby, it’s mental health as well and he knew I’d be on my own if I went back straight away.
“I’ve still been learning, I’ve sat in all the meetings, watched the reviews, been out when the lads have been training.
“And I’ve also been doing rehab on the shoulder to make sure everything is strong going into the operation. I’ve definitely been making the most of it.”
Gildart, who impressed for England against New Zealand a year ago, is expected to have surgery next Wednesday and has already turned his focus to next year’s three Tests against Australia.
“I’ll be doing everything I can to get back fit and strong, I’ve not played Australia yet so that’s a goal of mine for next year,” said the 23-year-old.
“That’d be a dream come true and I’ll be doing everything I can to be selected.”
Until then, he will be watching Saturday’s match from in front of his TV screen hoping the Lions can claim a victory at the third time of asking.
Ex-Warrior Jack Hughes is set to make his Test debut in the centre role, with Zak Hardaker switching to the wing to replace injured Ryan Hall.
“I’m buzzing for Jack, I remember him playing centre at Wigan and he’s an unbelievable athlete, I back him 100 per cent,” added Gildart. “I’m very confident we can get the win, I thought we were very lucky not to get it the other day.”