Giteau returns to Wallabies

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Matt Giteau will join the Wallabies in camp next week, after Toulon agreed to release him for the Rugby Championship.

The development comes after speculation that Giteau would be staying with his French club, with owner Mourad Boudjellal threatening to withhold player salaries if the star received a Test call up.

Under World Rugby regulation 9, international clubs can’t withdraw player salaries, but Boudjellal has a long history of strong arming his players into staying at their club.

ARU CEO Bill Pulver expressed his confidence on Thursday that an agreement would be reached without needing World Rugby intervention.

Wallabies winger and Toulon teammate Drew Mitchell said there was always going to be complications with negotiations, given the pair signed before last year’s eligibility changes.

“Because Matt and I went over there when it wasn’t possible, we agreed in our contract that we wouldn't’ play international footy - our owner was under the understanding that we’d be available through reg 9 windows," he said.

“I can definitely empathise with Toulon and understand their concerns but if there’s an opportunity that’s the pinnacle that’s what we want to do.

Mitchell said the only way to avoid tension between clubs and national unions was everyone being transparent and working to find some sort of middle ground.

Drew Mitchell is one of four overseas players to be included in the squad. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley

“For Matt and I and guys going over there now, it’s just about being completely open with everyone, which we have been,” he said

“It all changed after we signed our contract and each time, these things come up it’s differing things whether it’s salary, time we’re allowed away, insurance if we get injured playing Tests.

“There’s so many different aspects that make it a pretty complex massage our way through it - not everyone’s going to be entirely happy but we can accept what we come to.”

The announcement has come as Wallabies coach Michael Cheika named his 36-man Wallabies training squad, to convene in Sydney on Monday, ahead of the August 20 Bledisloe.

Cheika announced that Wycliff Palu has retired from Test rugby. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley

Cheika also revealed the veteran backrower Wycliff Palu's Wallabies days are done, announcing his international retirement on Friday.

None of the Brumbies players have joined camp, finishing their Super Rugby campaign just last week in a quarter-final loss to the Highlanders.

With Giteau returning, Christian Lealifano has not been included in that initial training squad.

Flanker Liam Gill is another notable absentee, with the Reds flanker now potentially free to head overseas to join Toulon’s pre-season, while Greg Holmes’s Wallabies days look over, with the Reds veteran released to join Exeter in the Premiership.

Greg Holmes looks to have played his last Wallabies Test. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley

Waratahs prop Tom Robertson has been rewarded for his Super Rugby form with inclusion in the 36-man training squad, while June series bolter Reece Hodge has also been given another national shot.

Lopeti Timani comes into the fold in search of his first cap, with Rob Simmons, Kane Douglas, Will Skelton and Adam Coleman making up the lock stocks.

Lopeti Timani is one of four uncapped players included in the extended squad. Photo: Getty Images

Brumbies lock Rory Arnold has been ruled out of the squad after an elbow injury suffered a fortnight ago, along with injured winger Joe Tomane, while his club second row partner, Sam Carter has been left out.

With Will Genia back in camp, young scrumhalf Joe Powell has missed out on selection.

Hulking winger Taqele Naiyaravoro is already fulfilling commitments with his Japanese club, but Cheika is hopeful of him returning for part of the Rugby Championship.

The squad will be trimmed in the coming weeks, with the first Bledisloe on August 20 in Sydney.

Wallabies 36-man train-on squad

Allan Alaalatoa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Adam Coleman, Quade Cooper, Kane Douglas, Scott Fardy, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Nick Frisby, Will Genia, Matt Giteau, James Hanson, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Michael Hooper, Rob Horne, Sekope Kepu, Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon, Drew Mitchell, Luke Morahan, Stephen Moore, Dean Mumm, Nick Phipps, David Pocock, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Tom Robertson, Rob Simmons, Scott Sio, Will Skelton, James Slipper, Toby Smith, Lopeti Timani, Matt Toomua