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Dublin: 12°C Tuesday 18 May 2021
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'He's a beautiful man. I always told him that when he was at Toulon'

Matt Giteau racked up his 100th Test cap last weekend against Scotland.

Murray Kinsella reports from the Lensbury Hotel

“I THOUGHT I’D be doing a couple of speaking gigs, get a bit of cash!”

Despite the 8am starting time to Australia’s media duties on a dreary, wet morning in Teddington, Matt Giteau is in characteristically sharp form when he’s asked whether he could have foreseen himself preparing for a World Cup semi-final six months ago.

Britain Rugby WCup Australia Scotland Giteau hit the 100-cap mark against Scotland last weekend. Source: Matt Dunham

At that point, foreign-based players weren’t eligible for the Wallabies, but Michael Cheika identified the need to bring Giteau and Drew Mitchell back into the Test match arena. Cheika ensured the rules were tweaked and got both of his men.

“It’s just been an amazing ride for me this last six months,” says Giteau. “To come back in and to be welcomed in by such a great group, they’ve made me feel so welcome straight away.

As soon as you feel that, you’re able to play your best football, you’re able to play as natural as possible, but yeah it’s just a great ride.”

The Toulon playmaker has been influential in Australia’s run to the last four, wearing the 12 shirt in the wins against Fiji, England, Wales and then against Scotland in last weekend’s quarter-final win.

The Twickenham clash – which Australia squeezed through thanks to Bernard Foley’s controversial late penalty – marked the occasion of Giteau’s 100th cap for the Wallabies, almost 13 years after his debut.

AustraliaÕs Matt Giteau Giteau has been influential for the Wallabies. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Personally, I’m just happy we survived another week,” says Giteau. “A semi-final at the World Cup; it’s huge. The 100th cap was good. The man of the match for me, I think should have gone to someone else in our team. So it’s not something I read too much into.”

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Giteau says the Australians only have to look at “what Argentina were able to do to Ireland” to appreciate the task that lies ahead for them on Sunday at Twickenham, while he is looking forward to matching-up against Juan Martín Hernández in midfield.

The Pumas’ maestro was with Toulon last season and Giteau jokes that he appreciated ‘El Mago’ for more than his rugby ability.

He’s a beautiful man. I always told him that when he was at Toulon. He is very skilful, he’s tough, defensively strong and he adds a lot of stability to that team. I know what it’s like to play with him, especially in big games and he’s a very good player.

“He’s very confident in what he does and the things he can do, a lot of other players can’t. I have a lot of respect for him.”

The likes of Hernández have been integral in the Argentinians’ attractive brand of attacking rugby, one that is as effective as it is expansive. Giteau and the Wallabies have been exciting throughout too, while New Zealand blew France away last weekend with their high tempo, clinical rucking and exceptional handling.

Keith Earls and Robbie Henshaw with of Juan Martin Hernandez Hernández was influential against Ireland. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Much of the talk this week has been of a gulf between the hemispheres, but Giteau doesn’t quite see it.

“Most French kids are playing with a soccer ball,” says Giteau. “I know at Toulon, we play in a style which we think works. I think the weather dictates a lot to do with the style.

In the winter when the Six Nations is on, the ball’s a bit more greasy and it’s harder to shift. That’s really why the game is played a bit tighter but when the ball is dry, you see those games when they are able and capable and they’re playing that fast brand.

“That North v South, I haven’t really thought about it all. A bounce of the ball at the weekend and it could have been totally different. There’s not a massive difference at all between the teams.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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