Matt Giteau has been named French rugby’s Top 14 player of 2013-14 – three years after being overlooked for Australia’s last World Cup campaign
He was shunted out when the ‘three amigos’ were Robbie Deans’ new best mates but Matt Giteau’s French renaissance has shown the former poster-boy’s enduring powers.
Giteau has been named French rugby’s Top 14 player of the season – three years after packing his bags when overlooked for Australia’s last World Cup campaign.
Now 32, the one-time highest paid Wallaby – who first made his name as an exciting inside centre for the Brumbies – is as influential as ever as a global rugby superstar.
Combining with former English rival Jonny Wilkinson, Giteau played a pivotal role at No.12 in guiding talent-laden Toulon to the French and European Cup double in 2013-14, and he continues to thrive.
“It is difficult to know how I feel, my emotions are flowing through me,” he said in French on collecting the award in Paris. “I was paid to do something I adore, in the company of incredible players and coaches.
“I was supported by people throughout, and at the end of all that I end up with trophies … I am beginning to realise how lucky I was.”
But Giteau had appeared highly unfortunate when Deans took a youth policy into the 2011 World Cup – omitting the 92-Test veteran from his 30-man squad.
Quade Cooper was preferred as playmaker, while strife-torn amigos James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale were also promoted as backline game-breakers.
Now Beale’s rugby future is on thin ice, a discarded O’Connor will attempt to win back respect at the Queensland Reds next year and a reborn Cooper – surviving his own fall-out with Deans – is fighting back from shoulder and hip surgery.
Despite the ignominious nature of his 2011 departure, Giteau says there’s no bad blood and nothing he would change.
Speaking to AAP in Europe last November, the former John Eales Medallist admitted his move to France had renewed his love for the game.
“It was the change I needed,” a humble Giteau said. “While I was very grateful for the opportunities I got in Australia for such a long time, I just thought the time was right.
“Everything has refreshed me and I’m just enjoying my rugby.”
Ineligible for the Wallabies due to his overseas contract, Giteau admits he’d love a third World Cup campaign but felt it would be backward step for Australia to consider him next year.
“I think you have some good young players coming through now and I can’t really see it becoming a reality,” he said. “And the way the laws are, especially me being a foreign player, I’m not sure it would be a positive move for Australian rugby.”