x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Mystery over Giteau being dropped from Wallabies

Australia coach Robbie Deans denies there is any friction between him and veteran fly-half Matt Giteau after he leaves the 28 year old off the Wallablies' squad list for the World Cup.

Unless an injury occurs, Matt Giteau, right, is out of Australia's Rugby World Cup plans.
Unless an injury occurs, Matt Giteau, right, is out of Australia's Rugby World Cup plans.

SYDNEY // Robbie Deans, the Australia coach, refused to explain his reasons for omitting Matt Giteau from his 30-man Rugby World Cup squad Thursday.

The 28-year-old Giteau made way for Berrick Barnes, as the back-up fly-half for Quade Cooper, in the squad for the World Cup starting next month in New Zealand, an announcement foreshadowed by Giteau's thinly veiled Twitter post on Wednesday when he hinted at his imminent axing.

Deans denied there was any friction between himself and the 92-Test veteran, but he did not explain his reasons for dropping him.

"I don't want to go into specific details," Deans said.

"It's tough enough for him to swallow without picking over that as well."

Deans said he broke the news to Giteau on Wednesday, shortly after arriving back in Australia from Australia's Tri Nations tour of South Africa.

"I wanted to be able to talk to him face-to-face," Deans said.

"I didn't want to impart the message via a text or a phone call. He's earned that respect."

Deans said Giteau "took it well" when called to the Wallabies team hotel to learn of his omission.

"There's no easy way to deliver that sort of news," Deans said.

Before the decision was made official to the public, Giteau indicated on Wednesday he had missed World Cup selection, posting on his Twitter feed "Thank u ballboys, thank u linesman! That's it."

Giteau, who has played as a fly-half, scrum-half and centre for Australia, was a surprise omission from the Australia's Tri Nations squads this year. He has already signed to play for the French club, Toulon, next year, meaning his match at fly-half in Australia's embarrassing loss to Samoa in Sydney last month is likely to have been his final match with the Wallabies.

"Obviously, I am very disappointed not to be in the Australian Rugby World Cup squad," Giteau said in a statement released by his management late Thursday. "It is the pinnacle of world rugby and I will miss it greatly. Having said that, I wish our team the very best of luck, and if there is anything I can do to help their cause in any way whatsoever, I am ready, willing and able."

Giteau said playing for the Wallabies had been a childhood dream: "It has been the greatest privilege of my life."

It has been widely speculated that Deans and Giteau have had an uneasy relationship since the coach opted to name Barnes as his vice-captain for the 2009 tour of Britain and Ireland.

But Deans denied any friction and said he would "absolutely, absolutely" have no hesitation recalling Giteau should injury strike any of Australia's key play makers in New Zealand.

"It's nonsense [that we don't get on]," Deans said. "His attitude is exceptional. You don't get to play 92 Tests, and have that sort of longevity in the game, without having a good attitude."

Giteau, who has played in two World Cups, is likely to play for the Australian Barbarians against Canada at the Gold Coast on August 26, the day before the Wallabies' last Tri Nations Test against New Zealand in Brisbane. The World Cup starts September 9.