Matt Giteau has some wise words for teenager James O’Connor who will make his Test debut on Australia’s year end Tour.
Giteau had an indifferent start to his Test career in 2002 but has progressed since to establish himself as one of the premier flyhalves in Test rugby.
Eighteen-year-old O’Connor impressed coach Robbie Deans enough in his four Super 14 matches for the Force to gain selection to the squad for the year end tour. He is now poised to become one of the youngest full internationals ever for Australia. His transition from Super Rugby to Tests will be made somewhat easier with Force team-mate Giteau willing to offer some sage advice.
“The most important thing for him is to learn as much as he can,” Giteau told the Sydney Morning Herald. “If he can learn from players who are successful, even if it is a front-rower or back-rower, it can only make him a better player. And if he doesn’t understand something, just ask. It revolves around learning from all of your experiences.
“When I was picked for the Wallabies, I probably wasn’t ready for Test rugby,” Giteau continued. “But the experience of that first Test was so important. After that, I knew what level I had to be at to be successful. I knew then I was out of my depth, but still learnt so much from that game and that Wallaby tour.
“Until I ran on, I had been watching that Test like a spectator. Once I got out there, it was an enormous discovery. I quickly found out the difference in speed between an ordinary game and a Test match, and exactly where I needed to be … What was good was that I came away from that tour knowing I had a long way to go, and that I had to start working really hard to get to the required level.”
Giteau also drew similarities between himself and O’Connor, joking that the kid possesses a healthy self esteem.
“When he first came into the Force team, he was pretty shy around me and a few of the guys. He was very much like myself when I began with the Wallabies … I wouldn’t dare say anything, and would go out of my way to do things I wouldn’t normally do to keep people happy. But once you settle into a place, you become yourself, and that’s when you feel more at ease. When he began to know everyone [at the Force], that’s when he began to talk it all up, and tell everyone how good he was.”