Wallabies gush over Giteau

There seems to be no end to the praise Matt Giteau has received from the Wallaby camp after his performance at scrumhalf against Wales.

The Western Force player is arguably the world’s finest inside centre but was shifted to scrumhalf after George Gregan opted not to tour and Sam Cordingley was injured.

While world rugby’s fraternity remains undecided about Giteau at No 9, the Australia management and his teammates seemed convinced of the 24-year-old’s aptitude for the role.

Coach John Connolly, who was initially against playing Giteau at scrumhalf until convinced to do so by selectors Scott Johnson and Michael O’Connor, conceded that his performance at the Millennium Stadium had made the position “competitive”.

Sterling Mortlock,who returns to the starting lineup for their Test against Italy in Rome on Saturday, was full of praise.

“I’m very excited to be returning to this back line,” Mortlock told Greg Gowden.

“Matt Giteau in his first Test at No.9 was outstanding and offered a lot more variety in attack to us. Having Bernie [Stephen Larkham] at No.12 also offered us a lot more width. We are looking at expanding our options in attack, and the persons we have on board are really conducive to doing that.”

Wallaby flank Rocky Elsom echoed his captain’s sentiments and said that on the field against Wales it was obvious they had dramatically picked up their rhythm – a key element being Giteau’s slick work at the tackle and scrum.

“When we had control of the breakdown, we were able to shift it quick. Gitty was just getting in there, and shifting it really quickly. And that makes a big difference,” Elsom said explained.

“There was a few poor passes by the players, and if that didn’t happen we would have made more line breaks. But, still, we made 10 line breaks, so that speed really helped us.”

It is unlikely though that Connolly will break up the Gregan/Larkham/Giteau combination this close to the World Cup, despite incessant calls for the veteran scrumhalf to be dropped.

Gregan was his first choice No 9 in the Tri-Nations and Connolly is on record as saying that he sees Cordingley as his successor. Add to the list Brett Sheehan and Josh Valentine and it is clear that competition for the role is stiff.

Italy won’t expose any deficiencies in Giteau’s scrumhalf game, with his next big test coming against Ireland in two weeks time.

It is rumoured that the Wallaby selectors will look to pressure the Western Force to play Giteau at scrumhalf in the Vodacom Super 14 in an attempt to get the 38-cap player as much game time behind the scrumbase as possible. This in itself might prove problematic, as former Australian Under 21 scrumhalf Mat Henjack had an impressive season with the new franchise this year.

But irrespective of where he plays, the little supreme is bound to give the opposition headaches for years to come.