Unfinished business for Giteau and Toulon
“The Heineken Cup is very special, and for a foreigner, something you cherish a lot more, but since being at Toulon for three years, I’ve realised how important the Top 14 is to the town. So it would mean so much to Toulon if we can get this Top 14.” [Matt Giteau, Toulon]
Having starred in Toulon’s breathtaking Heineken Cup victory over Saracens on the weekend, you could forgive ex-Wallabies Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell for celebrating with a drop of France’s finest champagne. But it’s been back to business at Toulon this week, as the recently crowned European champions eye off one final piece of history.
This Sunday – LIVE on Eurosport Australia – Giteau and Mitchell, along with departing skipper, Jonny Wilkinson, will be out to secure Toulon’s first Top 14 premiership since 1992, in a replay of last year’s final against Castres. For Giteau and the town of Toulon, it’s a case of unfinished business.
“The Top 14 is such a long season that to make it all this way and lose it at the final hurdle, which we have done the last two years, it’s devastating. It is something we have worked hard towards, and if we deserve it, we’ll win it,” Giteau said.
“The Heineken Cup is very special, and for a foreigner, something you cherish a lot more, but since being at Toulon for three years, I’ve realised how important the Top 14 is to the town. So it would mean so much to Toulon if we can get this Top 14.
“[The win against Saracens}, those moments don’t come around too often, so we made sure we enjoyed it, but it’s been back to training [the last few days] and our minds are firmly on the Top 14 now.
Wilkinson, who turned 35 on Monday, will end 17 years of top-class rugby in Sunday’s grand final, and Giteau is confident Toulon can reverse last year’s 19-14 Top 14 loss to Castres and send their champion out on a high.
“If anyone deserves a fairy tale finish, it’s Jonny (Wilkinson). He’s the ultimate professional and constantly working hard and doesn’t get anything by luck. So it would be lovely to win it for him, but also the whole team,” Giteau said.
“We’ve had a big win and a big Heineken Cup final, so it takes a lot out of you. As long as we can get ourselves mentally prepared and we turn up with the right mindset, that’s going to be our biggest challenge.”
Giteau starred in Sunday’s 23-6 win over Saracens, touching down for a five-pointer in a brilliant chip-and chase regather with compatriot Mitchell. Wilkinson was glowing in his appraisal of Giteau after the game, and despite acknowledging his teammate’s comments, the 31-year-old Australian remained resolute that his playing future would not involve a return to the Wallabies.
“It’s very flattering to hear comments from someone that you respect as highly as I do as Jonny…..[but] the rules are the way they are. For me I’m happy over here, I’m very settled. I’m enjoying my rugby. Things are different for me with a small family. I’m happy with my life and I’m happy with my rugby,” he said.
“I‘ve had my opportunities in Australia, and I’ve really enjoyed them. It’s a huge honour to represent your country and if I was asked to play of course you’d put your hand up, but I think the future of Australian rugby is with the guys who are there at the moment.”
Eurosport Australia’s LIVE coverage of the Top 14 Grand Final starts at 4.45am on Sunday June 1, with replays at 11am and 4pm the same day.