Matthew James Giteau
- 780Wallaby Number
Matt Giteau is the only Wallaby in the professional era to make his Test debut for Australia before he had played provincial rugby. One of Test rugby's most dangerous, daring, versatile and durable players he went on to become one the great Wallabies of the modern era.
Born in Sydney but raised in Canberra, Giteau had rugby league in his blood from his childhood as father Ron played more than 200 first grade matches for Western Suburbs, Eastern Suburbs and the Canberra Raiders. Giteau himself played league and it was not until he was moved to St. Edmund’s College that he, somewhat begrudgingly, played the 15-man game.
By the time Giteau reached years 11 and 12 he was told that if he wanted to play 1st XV, he had to give up league - so he did. For one of the few times in his career Giteau played second fiddle to a rival player, fellow future Wallaby Lachlan Mackay, when he ‘only’ made the Australia ‘A’ Schools team of 2000.
He arrived in 2002 with selection in the national 7s, U21s and, without having ever trained, let alone played with a Super Rugby team, the Wallaby Spring Tour squad. Giteau then made his Test debut just 48 days after his 20th birthday, against England at Twickenham.
From that point on there was very little Giteau did not achieve in rugby although he did note taste victory in either the Bledisloe or Rugby World Cups. In 2011, having played 92 Tests, Giteau’s career was at a crossroads. An obvious scapegoat for the stunning loss to Samoa in Sydney he was dropped from the squad and not selected to what would have been his third Rugby World Cup. He then left Australia for France where he enjoyed two outstanding seasons with Toulon.
In 2015 the ARU changed its contract restrictions for overseas players in what would come to be known as the ‘Giteau Law’. The rule change made Giteau eligible for national selection and he returned to the fold with a newfound appreciation for each minute played for his country. Four years and a day after the Samoan debacle Giteau wore the Wallabies’ No.12 jersey onto the field against South Africa in Brisbane. He then won selection in the squad for the Rugby World Cup where he became just the seventh Wallaby to play 100 Tests.
Injury denied Giteau the opportunity to go out entirely on his own terms however he thoroughly deserved the rewards that his 2015 year delivered. Over the course of a 16 year, 13 season international career he played 103 Tests (6th all-time for Australia as at end-2017), and scored 698 points (3rd all-time for Australia as at end-2017).
Represented Australia ‘A’ Schools at halfback against New Zealand Schools
Represented Australia in the IRB Sevens World Series.
Selected in the Australian squad for the inaugural IRB U21s Junior World Championship tournament in South Africa. Giteau won his first Test cap off the bench when he replaced Dan Herbert at inside centre (he then swapped with Elton Flatley to No.10) in the 31-32 loss to England at Twickenham. Seven days later he picked up a second cap in the 34-3 victory over Italy in Padova.
Giteau did not play in the first five Tests following an arthroscope on his knee but returned to the squad mid-way through the Tri-Nations. He won selection to his first Rugby World Cup and earned caps in six of the team’s seven matches. Giteau scored his first Test try against Romania in Brisbane and won his first cap in the run-on XV when selected at fly half in the 142-0 defeat of Namibia in Adelaide.
He started at inside centre in 11 of the Wallabies’ 12 Tests. Giteau finished the year as the team’s leading point scorer (81).
Giteau earned a further 10 Test caps but missed the final two internationals of the Spring Tour, against Ireland and Wales, after he fractured his knee in the 16-26 loss to England.
Giteau missed the home series against England and the one-off Test against Ireland due to a knee injury but returned to win 10 Test caps over the course of the Tri-Nations tournament and the Spring Tour. He started at halfback in all four northern hemisphere internationals.
He earned another 10 Test caps, the first two as a run-on No.9 and the final eight at inside centre. Giteau was picked in the Rugby World Cup squad and played his 50th Test in the pool game victory over Fiji at Montpellier.
Giteau played in all 13 Wallaby Tests, 12 at No.10 and finished the season as the team’s top points scorer (150).
He started at fly half in 12 of the season’s 13 Tests. Giteau became the only Wallaby to ever twice score 150 points in a season (153) and he won the prestigious John Eales Medal.
Giteau picked up 13 caps and of those all bar two were as the starting No.12.
Giteau was selected at fly-half for the opening season Test against Samoa in Sydney. The Wallabies were embarrassed and lost 23-32. Giteau, as well as a number of other starting XV players, were not selected again that year.
The passing of the so called ‘Giteau Law’ allowed Giteau, if selected, to return to the national squad. He played 10 of the 12 Tests and was picked in the squad for his third Rugby World Cup. Giteau scored the match-sealing try against England to knock the home side out of their own tournament but then suffered his own knock-out, in the final against New Zealand, when concussed in an early collision with Brodie Retallick.
Giteau missed the home series against England but returned for the Rugby Championship. He started in the opening Test against New Zealand but lasted just nine minutes before he broke his left ankle.