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Matt Giteau a marked man in European Cup final


Julian Guyer

Matt Giteau will be heavily marked in the European Cup final.

Matt Giteau will be heavily marked in the European Cup final. Photo: AFP

Former Wallaby Matt Giteau will be a carefully marked man when his French club Toulon meet England outfit Saracens in Saturday's European Cup final in Cardiff.

The build-up to the match has been dominated by the imminent retirement of Toulon five-eighth Jonny Wilkinson. The England great – 35 on Sunday – is set to bow out from all rugby following next weekend's French Top 14 final against Castres.

Saracens, in their first European Cuo final, are also eyeing a "double" before their English Premiership final with Northampton.

Wilkinson's remorseless goal-kicking was responsible for all of reigning European champions Toulon's points in their 24-12 semi-final win over Saracens last season.

But Saracens coach Mark McCall has been impressed too by 31-year-old inside-centre Giteau, who won the last of his 92 Wallaby caps three years ago.

"He [Giteau] is a very special player, because he's got not only a fantastic passing game, he kicks the ball well, he's stronger and quicker than most people think," McCall said.

"And he's at his most dangerous when he's at the line with a winger on his inside, and you can't take your eye off him for a second, he's a superb player."

Giteau, for his part, would just like to help one-time rival Wilkinson go out on a high.

"Jonny is the ultimate professional," said Giteau, a member of the Australia side beaten by Wilkinson's boot in the 2007 World Cup quarter-finals in Marseille and a temporary replacement when the England star's extra-time drop-goal downed the Wallabies in a thrilling Sydney final four years earlier.

"It is incredibly important for us to have him sign off with a trophy.

"He was instrumental in helping me settle in Toulon when I joined three years ago ... It has been a pleasure to be in the same team."

Wilkinson has, typically, tried to remove himself from the spotlight by saying: "I would like to focus all my attention and energy on the team and these final two games of the season."

Toulon, bankrolled by wealthy publisher Mourad Boudjellal, boast a star-studded team. South Africa wing Bryan Habana joins Wilkinson and Giteau in the backs, while up front they have formidable locks in Springbok Bakkies Botha and All Black Ali Williams.

In some ways, their side is reminiscent of the one Saracens, still backed by millionaire businessman Nigel Wray, fielded in the early days of professional rugby union when South Africa's Francois Pienaar, Australia's Michael Lynagh and France's Philippe Sella all played for the north London club.

However, McCall was in no doubt that Toulon, coached by former France boss Bernard Laporte, were a star side, not a side full of stars.

"There are examples of teams who have spent a lot of money, or brought in stars, and then not delivered," the former Ireland international said.

"But Toulon seem to have chosen very well, with the squad they have got they have a great togetherness, spirit and camaraderie, and on top of that they are all good players."


HuffPost Australia

Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 47vs TGA 9 Report Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 33vs SCO 36 Report Stats
AUS 15vs WAL 6 Report Stats
ENG 60vs URU 3 Stats
ARG 64vs NAM 19 Report Stats
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 32vs ROM 22 Report Stats
FRA 9vs IRE 24 Report Stats
USA 18vs JPN 28 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs WAL 0 02:00Twic
NZL 0vs FRA 0 06:00MilS
IRE 0vs ARG 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
AUS 0vs SCO 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 4 4 0 0 106 17
Wales 4 3 1 0 49 13
England 4 2 2 0 58 11
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 4 0 4 0 -196 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 4 3 1 0 43 14
Japan 4 3 1 0 -2 12
Samoa 4 1 3 0 -55 6
USA 4 0 4 0 -106 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 4 4 0 0 125 19
Argentina 4 3 1 0 109 15
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 4 1 3 0 -60 6
Namibia 4 0 4 0 -104 1
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 4 4 0 0 99 18
France 4 3 1 0 57 14
Italy 4 2 2 0 -14 10
Romania 4 1 3 0 -69 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
View all

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