Wallabies bring Giteau back for Rugby Championship despite Toulon discontent

Mourad Boudjellal is thought to be unhappy about Test rugby taking his players from Toulon.

MICHAEL CHEIKA HAS named Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell in his 36-man Australia training squad for the upcoming Rugby Championship, despite concerns that Toulon would not release the pair.

AustraliaÕs Matt Giteau Giteau starred for the Wallabies at last year's World Cup. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

French reports had indicated that 33-year-old Giteau and 32-year-old Mitchell might miss the competition due to threats from Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal to withhold their salaries if they departed for international duty.

Boudjellal’s argument centres around the fact that when Giteau and Mitchell initially signed for Toulon, the Australian Rugby Union did not allow players based abroad to feature for the Wallabies, and the pair would therefore not play Test rugby.

The so-called ‘Giteau’s law’ was introduced in 2015, allowing players who have earned at least 60 Test caps for Australia to continue to be selected even when based abroad.

Despite Boudjellal’s frustration, the Wallabies have called Giteau and Mitchell into a squad that also includes the uncapped Reece Hodge, Allan Alaalatoa, Tom Robertson and Lopeti Timani.

It might prove that Giteau and Mitchell do forego their salaries for the coming months in order to play for the Wallabies, which would potentially bring World Rugby into the picture as they look to reinforce Regulation 9, designed to protect the primacy of Test rugby.

However, ARU CEO Bill Pulver has expressed his belief that such a measure will not be required.

“Because Matt and I went over there when it wasn’t possible, we agreed in our contract that we wouldn’t play international footy,” Mitchell told the ARU’s official site. “Our owner was under the understanding that we’d be available through Regulation 9 windows.

Drew Mitchell is tackled by Owen Franks Mitchell during last year's World Cup final. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

“I can definitely empathise with Toulon and understand their concerns but if there’s an opportunity that’s the pinnacle [of rugby], that’s what we want to do.

“It all changed after we signed our contract and each time these things come up it’s differing things – whether it’s salary, time we’re allowed away, insurance if we get injured playing Tests.

“There’s so many different aspects that make it pretty complex to massage our way through it. Not everyone’s going to be entirely happy but we can accept what we come to.”

Brumbies playmaker Christian Leali’ifano has missed out on Cheika’s training squad, while it has been confirmed that number eight Wycliff Palu has retired from Test rugby.

Australia’s Rugby Championship begins against New Zealand in Sydney on 20 August.

Wallabies 36-man training squad:

Props: Allan Alaalatoa, Sekope Kepu, Tom Robertson, James Slipper, Toby Smith, Scott Sio

Hookers: Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Hanson

Locks: Adam Coleman, Kane Douglas, Dean Mumm, Lopeti Timani, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton

Back rows: Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon, David Pocock

Halfbacks: Nick Frisby, Will Genia, Nick Phipps, Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley

Centres: Matt Giteau, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua

Back threes: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell, Luke Morahan.

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