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How did Australia let him go: Wilkinson lauds Giteau

Date
The ultimate professional: Matt Giteau.

The ultimate professional: Matt Giteau. Photo: AFP

CARDIFF: Jonny Wilkinson said playing alongside "inspirational" former Australian centre Matt Giteau had convinced him now was the right time to retire.

Wilkinson and Giteau -- "the ultimate professional" in the eyes of the England great -- were both members of the star-studded Toulon side that retained the European Cup with a 23-6 win over Saracens in the final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The match was 2003 World Cup-winner Wilkinson's last on British soil, with the fly-half set to retire after Toulon's French Top 14 final against Castres next weekend.

Drew Mitchell played a crucial role in Giteau's try.

Drew Mitchell played a crucial role in Giteau's try. Photo: AFP

Wilkinson was faultless in kicking 13 points against London side Saracens, his haul including a drop-goal off his weaker, right foot, just as he'd done to seal England's extra-time World Cup final against Australia in Sydney 11 years ago.

But it was Giteau's 29th-minute try that propelled Toulon into a lead they never surrendered.

Toulon captain Wilkinson switched play with an inside pass to Giteau, whose clever chip kick into space saw Drew Mitchell beat Saracens fullback Alex Goode to the ball.

Jonny Wilkinson holds the Heineken Cup after his last match on British soil.

Jonny Wilkinson holds the Heineken Cup after his last match on British soil. Photo: AFP

Former Wallaby winger Mitchell then passed out of the tackle to the supporting Giteau, who'd admirably followed up his own kick, and the centre raced in for a try.

"He's exceptional," Wilkinson said of the 31-year-old Giteau, who won the last of his 92 caps in 2011.

"I don't quite know how a team ever let him go in Australia to come over here (Europe)," Wilkinson added of the playmaker, who left the Brumbies for France after a 2011 World Cup where he failed to make the Wallaby squad.

The Wallabies connection: Mitchell (L) with Giteau.

The Wallabies connection: Mitchell (L) with Giteau. Photo: Getty Images

"Since he's been here he's done nothing but bring this team up, become better himself and make us all better players," said Wilkinson, a veteran of 97 Tests, after a victory which came just a day before his 35th birthday.

"I wouldn't survive out there without guys like him," Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson, still second only to New Zealand's Dan Carter in the all-time list of international points-scorers after retiring from Test rugby following the 2011 World Cup, never looked like missing in landing two conversions, two penalties and that drop-goal against Saracens.

But he said there had been times when he'd asked Giteau to step in as Toulon's goal-kicker.

"Sometimes this season I haven't made the first few kicks and I've said 'mate you take the next one', he (Giteau) just steps up, does it.

"That's the kind of guy is. He's an ultimate professional, he can do just about anything.

"He's the reason why someone like me would realise my time is up because you look at him doing what he does and you think 'this is where the future of this team is'."

AFP

47 comments so far

  • It's a shame really but now Australia and the Wallabies can't afford to bring him back just when Ewan needs him now for next year's RWC. Beale and Foley can only hope but both are not even close to what Gits can do.

    Commenter
    Akari
    Date and time
    May 25, 2014, 11:42AM
    • @ Akari

      Beale and Foley can play for the Wallaby.... mmmmm ?

      Commenter
      Machooka
      Location
      inner west sydney
      Date and time
      May 25, 2014, 12:52PM
    • Akari, you are dreaming. Giteau had enough chances and now he is past it at test level. There are a dozen better inside backs to consider before he could ever be an option.

      Commenter
      Bushranger
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 25, 2014, 1:12PM
    • Its not hard to look good in the European Cup.
      He had his chances.
      The Wallabies have moved on and have a great squad this year and a great coach.

      Commenter
      Sir Noddy
      Location
      Glebe
      Date and time
      May 25, 2014, 4:14PM
    • Had he been played at inside centre, he would have shone. But he seldom did, and didn't.

      Sad.

      Commenter
      Digby
      Date and time
      May 27, 2014, 1:01PM
  • Matt in his Wallaby days was either exceptional or terrible. he appeared to me to also be an agent of destabilising, whilst with the Brumbies he helped get rid of Nucifora (who had won the Super 12 comp), and we saw in a couple of Wallaby games his utter lack of professionalism by laughing whilst missing a crucial kick. At the end of his career with the Wallabies he seemed to not be interested.

    Commenter
    Taffy
    Location
    Ingleburn
    Date and time
    May 25, 2014, 12:24PM
    • I agree with you Taffy, quality player back in his day but just look at the Wallaby Scotland game a couple of years back to realise why we let him go. Playing in Europe is a lower standard to Super.

      Commenter
      Andrew
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 25, 2014, 1:02PM
    • Giteau was the original amigo. The first of the overpaid golden boys of professional Australian rugby who thought that a million dollar contract meant he didn't need to develop as a human being. Australia are better off without him.

      Commenter
      Ghris
      Date and time
      May 25, 2014, 1:59PM
    • I agree. We 'let him go' because he thought himself bigger than the game.

      Commenter
      Hatchet
      Date and time
      May 25, 2014, 3:32PM
    • Anyone stating Giteau is past it has obviously not watched much of his time in France in the last 2 seasons ..... He is in career best form at the moment. I love how he is running onto the ball at speed again and is thriving as the second play maker at 12. He is making those around him look very good!

      I agree his form before he left for Europe was poor, and it wasn't great in his first season there, but he, Wilkinson and Bastareud would show up most test 10, 12, 13 combinations currently. I think he has really matured over there playing with a great team of seasoned professionals and in greatly varying conditions. Not that it will happen as he would be getting paid a motza over there, but I for one would love to see him return at 12 for the World Cup. We could do with Gits almost as much as England could do with Steffon Armitage .... Damn that bloke is in some rich form at 7 and 8 currently and would also walk into their team if available.

      Commenter
      Ozzy
      Location
      Newcastle
      Date and time
      May 25, 2014, 3:55PM

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