Bundee Aki says he is having the time of his life on the British and Irish Lions tour and that the players have formed a strong bond as they head into the winner-takes-all third Test against South Africa on Saturday.
The conclusion of the eight-match, six-week tour is a decider against the Springboks with the Ireland international among six changes to the team named by coach Warren Gatland for the game at Cape Town Stadium.
It will be the Connacht centre's first Test appearance after being in the stands for the first two, but he says those early omissions have not stopped him from having an experience of a lifetime.
"The time I've had here has been honestly unbelievable," he said.
"I don’t say this lightly but I’ve honesty had the best time of my life being a part of this group. You will only know how well we all get along as a team if you were around us. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time being here."
He added that players that are usually on opposite sides of the pitch in Six Nations tussles are now closer friends, like England captain Owen Farrell, son of his Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.
"I've learnt so much off that guy, I get along with him so well," he said.
"I only knew him from across the pitch, playing against him, but he’s a great bloke to have around. We’ve been hanging around every day."
Aki also spoke about reprising his centre partnership with Robbie Henshaw in a third team, who he played with at Connacht previously and currently in the colours of Ireland.
"We've been close mates. I’m absolutely blessed to be a team mate of Robbie and played so many games with him. We’ve just got to make sure we do what we do best as a partnership."
The 31-year-old Aki is one of four changes in the backline after the Lions lost 27-9 in the second Test last Saturday. He replaces the Scotland international Chris Harris.
"I’m delighted I’ve got the nod but we’ve got a job to do. I’m looking forward to it, trying to keep my feet on the ground and make sure I do the job I need to do," he said.
"It’s a huge honour to play for this prestigious team. I’m grateful for the opportunity I’m getting this week, not many people get a test cap. I’m going to relish the time I have on the pitch," he added.
Follow South Africa v Lions third Test with our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app or listen to live commentary with Donal Lenihan and Michael Corcoran on RTÉ's 2fm from 4.45pm Saturday.