Fiji captain Ashton Sims says leading his nation out for the first time on Saturday evening will be the proudest moment of his 12-year career thus far.
The Cowboys enforcer will fill the massive hole left by retired legend Petero Civoniceva, and with the experienced Wes Naiqama also missing with a foot injury, coach Rick Stone opted for Sims to run the boys out of the tunnel this weekend.
"It means the world. It's the highest individual honour I've ever had," Sims told NRL.com.
"I really take this as one of the highlights of my career, along with my debut. So I'm just grateful for this opportunity and I'm really looking forward to leading by example on Saturday night."
Sims' booming voice reverberated across the foot of the mountains during Fiji's first training run at St Mary's Leagues club on Tuesday morning. Winger Lote Tuqiri – who plays his first Test for Fiji in 14 years – says the team responded well to their new leader.
"I didn't have too much to do with him before I came into camp. He was always a tough competitor on the field and he's certainly leading with his voice here now," Tuqiri said.
"He's a good leader; he's a great leader so far from what I've seen and the boys really respect him. I just told him this morning that I'm backing him 100 per cent and the boys are too so I think he'll lead from the front and lead by example.”
Sims, 29, will lead a Fijian side that defeated Samoa 22-4 in the quarter-finals of last year before eventually being walloped 64-0 by Australia a week later.
Missing from the team that featured in that semi-final include NRL names Akuila Uate, Apisai Koroisau, Sisa Waqa and NSW Country representative Tariq Sims. Second-rower Jayson Bukuya has also been ruled out through injury.
With a spot in October's Four Nations up for grabs however, Sims said the breakout seasons of Parramatta winger Semi Radradra and Roosters prop Kane Evans would help cover for what will be one of the most important Tests in the country's history.
"It's huge man... the Four Nations is riding on this one. We just had our first training run and I was really stoked with how we trained," he said.
"We're getting ready to play on Saturday night and hopefully there'll be a big crowd there cheering both teams on and hopefully we get the win.
"There's about 12 of us from that squad, so we've got the core of the team here. Missed a few through injury which is a bit of a shame, but we definitely got blokes to come jump in and fill the spots.
"It's the biggest – four of the best teams in the world in one spot. We're not going to look too far ahead. First we've got to worry about Saturday night, playing well, playing strong and hopefully getting the win."
Radradra will partner Tuqiri in the centres, with Marika Koroibete and Penrith's Eto Nabuli on the wing. Kevin Naiqama will start at fullback.