Rugby: Giteau likely to be casualty in Deans' Wallaby Cup side

Matt Giteau was the scapegoat after Samoa inflicted a humiliating season-opening defeat in Sydney on July 17. Photo / Getty Images
Matt Giteau was the scapegoat after Samoa inflicted a humiliating season-opening defeat in Sydney on July 17. Photo / Getty Images

He had his wings clipped after the Wallabies plummeted to a historic defeat by Samoa last month so there is a certain symmetry in Matt Giteau's Rugby World Cup fate being revealed in an aircraft hangar today.

Giteau's involvement - or non-selection - in next month's tournament is the major talking point ahead of coach Robbie Deans unveiling the 30 players entrusted with embarrassing his homeland by hoisting the Webb Ellis trophy aloft for an unprecedented third time in Auckland on October 23.

Deans' relationship with the 92-test five-eighths is said to be fractious and it would be no surprise if the France-bound 28-year-old is among the casualties when the 40-man squad is whittled down.

Giteau was the scapegoat after Samoa inflicted a humiliating season-opening defeat in Sydney on July 17, a 39-20 loss that may also see Matt Hodgson and Sitaleki Timani deemed surplus to requirements.

Realistically, Giteau was only filling in at first five-eighths against the Pacific Islanders so Quade Cooper could rest up after the Reds' triumphant Super 15 campaign, but the signs were ominous when he was diverted to club rugby while Pat McCabe and Anthony Faainga logged game time against the All Blacks and South Africa in the Tri-Nations.

The ability of James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale to deputise for Cooper also counts against Giteau playing at a third World Cup while Berrick Barnes' apparent recovery from concussion-related migraines presents another obstacle if the fellow five-eighths is selected on trust after four club games.

A host of Wallaby legends advocated Giteau's selection as Deans pondered the composition of his squad on the flight back from South Africa.

Former test first five-eighths Mark Ella and Stephen Larkham argued the selectors could not afford to omit a player of Giteau's experience.

Larkham, who guided the Wallabies to World Cup victory in 1999, said: "You need guys who play multiple positions and can be called upon to play anywhere in the backline.

"Gits can play anywhere, including halfback. He's very versatile, is a left-foot option and is very experienced. You want someone like that in the squad."

Ella, who starred in the No 10 jersey during the Wallabies' 1984 Grand Slam tour, agreed.

"He's too good a player to leave out of the squad in total. I think he'll make it. I don't know how much game time he'll get, he's certainly on the outer in terms of the run-on side."

Giteau's ability to cover halfback might be his saving grace because taking a third halfback to New Zealand could be a luxury considering Luke Burgess is, barring an injury to Will Genia, only likely to gain serious game time against the United States and Russia in pool play.

Nathan Sharpe, another stalwart thought to be on the outer after the Samoa debacle, should close in on test centurion status in New Zealand.

Sharpe, James Horwill and Rob Simmons loom as automatic selections while Deans has to consider whether Dan Vickerman has done enough since his return from England to warrant a locking berth.

- NZPA

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