Wilkinson passes praise to Giteau
Sun, 25 May 2014 07:36
Wouldn't survive out there without guys like him
Jonny Wilkinson said playing alongside 'inspirational' former Australian centre Matt Giteau had convinced him now was the right time to retire.
Giteau will find himself back on South African soil in June when he faces the Springboks as part of Nick Mallett's World XV.
Wilkinson and Giteau - 'the ultimate professional' in the eyes of the England great - were both members of the star-studded Toulon side that retained the European Cup with a 23-6 win over Saracens in the European Cup Final.
The match was 2003 World Cup-winner Wilkinson's last on British soil, with the fly-half set to retire after Toulon's French Top 14 final against Castres next weekend.
It was Giteau's 29th-minute try that propelled Toulon into a lead they never surrendered.
"He's exceptional," Wilkinson said of the 31-year-old Giteau, who won the last of his 92 caps in 2011.
"I don't quite know how a team ever let him go in Australia to come over here [to Europe]," Wilkinson added of the playmaker, who left the Brumbies for France after the 2011 World Cup where he failed to make the Wallaby squad.
"Since he's been here he's done nothing but bring this team up, become better himself and make us all better players," said Wilkinson.
"I wouldn't survive out there without guys like him.
Wilkinson, still second only to New Zealand's Dan Carter in the all-time list of international points-scorers after retiring from Test rugby following the 2011 World Cup, never looked like missing in landing two conversions, two penalties and that drop-goal against Saracens.
But he said there had been times 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', he [Giteau] just steps up, does it.
"That's the kind of guy is. He's an ultimate professional, he can do just about anything.
"He's 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'."
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