Matt Giteau’s presence galvanises Wallabies as glory beckons
Australia’s policy on overseas players highlights England’s strategic failure
As the tournament progressed The Giteau Rule made England’s four-year plan to be successful at their own tournament look badly flawed.
If Australia manage to beat New Zealand in this World Cup – still a tall order – they will keep the Indian sign over them (currently 2-1), and be able to lord over them the fact they would have a third title to the All Blacks’ two.
To do this, many things must fall their way; and Matt Giteau eclipsing Ma’a Nonu is among them.
Michael Cheika only took over as head coach after insisting he needed the best Wallabies playing in Europe back in the fold.
That instantly highlighted a structural crack in the RFU strategic plan as England stubbornly went the opposite way with players based in France ignored – a position rubbed in their face when Toulon’s Giteau dived over in the Twickenham corner during the pool stages. But there is something about the mere presence of Giteau, and Kane Douglas for that matter, that has assisted the Wallaby rise.
“Just his overall character,” said Cheika. “He’s tough. He’s hungry. He can be angry, he can be funny five minutes later. He’s got good balance in his life and he’s projecting that out to his team-mates. Other guys get a kick out of that. It’s been good to have him back and I’ve enjoyed it as I’ve never coached him before. He’s been really good to coach.”
Adam Ashley-Cooper pushed tributes for his fellow century cap holder to the ultimate level.
“Legend,” said Ashley-Cooper. “He’s an absolute legend. He is a legend of the game. The circumstances in which he exited Australian rugby in 2011 before a World Cup, then he’s gone on to be a world-class player for Toulon. I think it’s three Heineken Cups and a Top Quatorze, so it’s not like he went over there to knock off.
“He’s gone over there to prove a point, he’s a world-class player and a world-class bloke too. That’s the best thing about Matt Giteau: not only do you see him killing it on the football field, he’s a bloke that has strong moral fibre. He’s a great father, he’s a great husband and he’s a great mate.
“That’s exactly what you want to see in a Wallaby.”
It’s suggested he became a different man after three years in France with Toulon.
“I think the type of character he is – and I’ve always respected Matt Giteau as one of the mentally toughest players I know – it’s just motivated him. He’s here today because of that.”
Even Douglas’s return from Leinster, which actually circumvented the Giteau Rule as he didn’t meet the requirement therein, has brought an added dimension to the Australian squad.
“I’ve played with Doug for a long time,” said Michael Hooper, “and the most immediate impact is off-field impact. He has been a great guy to have around the group. Brings energy and laughter.”
That’s the way the Wallabies are now. Fully aware of the enormity of this task but fully confident that Australia can beat New Zealand every day of the week.
“We are really enjoying what will be our last week together for a while,” said Scott Fardy. “We’ve been on tour since July. We are just enjoying our last moments together.
“We’ve been on the road for a long time.”