Matt Giteau, Australia's world-class fly-half, believes tomorrow's Test with France will provide a reliable barometer of their progress under Robbie Deans. The Wallabies have made relatively light work of their opening three matches of the campaign, easily defeating the Barbarians before comfortably accounting for the Italians in Canberra and Melbourne.
Les Bleus, meanwhile, almost pulled of a rare clean sweep over the All Blacks in their two-match series across the Tasman. The Wallabies face a three-week wait before their next assignment against the Kiwis in Auckland, and Giteau concedes a convincing win over the French this weekend would deliver a major psychological boost heading into the Tri- Nations opener. "I suppose it gives us a bit of a measuring stick ... letting us know how we're actually travelling into the Tri Nations," said the pivot who will rejoin the CA Brumbies for next year's Super 14.
"The guys are really looking forward to putting in a good performance and a solid win. "I think it just reinforces that if we do play well and perform the way we want, that we're on the right track and we're heading the right way and where we need to be going into the Tri-Nations." Giteau believes it is difficult to predict which France side will turn up - the one who beat New Zealand in the first Test or the one who crumbled at Twickenham in the Six Nations.
"That's the thing with the French, you're not sure what to expect. They've got the ability to play that tight aggressive style with the forwards and they've also got that flamboyance where they can throw the ball around and attack from anywhere," he said. "The main thing that we need to be focused on is just the way we play, that's all we can control." Giteau says he was caught off guard when told Marc Lievremont, the France coach, had dropped in-form fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc in favour of Lionel Beauxis for the clash.
But Giteau, 26, won't be taking his opposite number lightly. "He brings a great kicking game, very composed, a strong defender and I think they've gone with that because of the big attacking outside backs that we've got," he said. "But I also thought that Trinh-Duc played well in the first two Tests. "It'll be a big challenge but I'm looking forward to it." Meanwhile, France centre Mathieu Bastareaud has admitted to lying when he claimed he had been attacked by up to five people as he returned to the team hotel early last Sunday following a 14-10 loss to New Zealand in Wellington.
"I just talked to Mathieu. He came back to his hotel under the influence of alcohol, he stumbled and fell," said club Stade Francais president Max Guazzini. "In the morning, he got scared of the consequences it could have with the team's management." CCTV footage from the hotel where the 20-year-old Bastareaud was staying showed him walking in uninjured in the early hours of the morning. * With agencies