Jonny Wilkinson hails 'exceptional' Matt Giteau
May 25, 2014
Matt Giteau is congratulated by his Toulon team-mates after scoring the opening try in Saturday's Heineken Cup final © Getty Images
"He is the reason why someone like me would realise my time is up because you look at him doing what he does and you think 'this is where the future of this team is'," Wilkinson said after he and Giteau had each starred for Toulon in their Heineken Cup final victory over Saracens at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Wilkinson kicked 13 points in the final, his haul including a drop goal off his weaker right foot, but it was Giteau's 29th-minute try that propelled Toulon into a lead they never surrendered.
Wilkinson, the Toulon captain, switched play with an inside pass to Giteau, whose clever chip kick into space saw Drew Mitchell beat Saracens' Alex Goode to the ball. Mitchell then offloaded to the supporting Giteau, who had followed up his own kick, and the centre raced in for a try.
"He's exceptional," Wilkinson said of Giteau, who left Super Rugby's Brumbies for the Top 14 after he failed to make the Wallabies squad for the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
"I don't quite know how a team ever let him go in Australia to come over here. Since he's been here, he's done nothing but bring this team up, become better himself, and make us all better players. I wouldn't survive out there without guys like him."
Wilkinson never looked like missing in landing two conversions, two penalties and the drop goal against Saracens. But he said there had been times this season when he'd asked Giteau to step in as Toulon's goal-kicker.
"Sometimes this season I haven't made the first few kicks and I've said 'mate you take the next one'," Wilkinson said. "He just steps up, does it. That's the kind of guy is. He's an ultimate professional, he can do just about anything."
The match was Wilkinson's last on British soil, with the fly-half set to retire after Toulon's Top 14 final against Castres next weekend.
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action
The latest Week in Pictures takes in some original ways of welcoming teams to the field and plenty of tries from the European Champions Cup