Mortlock expecting Giteau to shine - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mortlock expecting Giteau to shine

By Darren Walton 24/10/2006 07:05:36 PM Comments (0)

Initially a sceptic, Wallabies caretaker captain Stirling Mortlock now believes Matt Giteau could prove a major success at halfback.

With regular scrumhalf and skipper George Gregan opting out of Australia's spring tour of Britain and Italy, Wallabies coach John Connolly has made no secret of his intention of experimenting with Giteau in the No.9 jumper on the month-long expedition.

In four years of international rugby Giteau has never started at halfback and openly prefers to play inside centre, where he has forged a reputation as one of the finest midfielders in the game.

But the 24-year-old has also always said he would play whatever position he was told and, with Gregan and injured second-choice halfback Sam Cordingley to miss the upcoming tour, Giteau will be asked to feed the scrum in at least one of the four Tests against Wales, Italy, Ireland and Scotland - if not more.

Brett Sheehan and Josh Valentine will also be given time to impress but it's been Giteau who has caught the eye of both Connolly and Mortlock during the Wallabies' pre-tour training this month.

Mortlock admitted that at first, "like most people were, I was a bit perplexed" by plans to move Giteau away from the centres.

"But just seeing him in training up at Coffs Harbour in the camp, he trained exceptionally well there," Mortlock said.

"He's a great talent. He's one of the best inside centres in the world and I've got no doubt if he did play No.9, he'd play quite well there. It's just a question of how well."

Mortlock said he had thoroughly enjoyed playing outside Giteau for the past four years with the Wallabies and Brumbies but he didn't believe breaking up their partnership was necessarily a bad thing.

"I had a number of Tests playing outside of Mat Rogers at 12 this year and felt as though that combination was coming along," he said. "Every Test some combination is going to be new. That's the way it is.

"One thing that we do have that is quite positive is a lot of depth, especially in the backs. Most players have the capability to play a number of positions and that's certainly the case for this tour and I don't think we'll lose too much if Gits isn't playing at 12.

"That being said, it will be very interesting to see how he goes if he does get the opportunity to play nine.

"We've done a lot of work on our skills and what we've done to develop ourselves as rugby players will help with those combinations changing up.

"It will be a challenge but I think it's one all the guys are looking forward to. Playing in a position that's not necessarily your consistent position can sometimes be a real positive spark to an individual."

A cagey Connolly said Giteau had "fitted in pretty well, Brett Sheehan also did very well, as did Josh Valentine" while training at halfback at Coffs Harbour and he wouldn't reveal how much time Giteau would spend in the position during the four-Test tour, which also includes three mid-week fixtures.

Mortlock, who sat out last year's tour and then proved to be one of the form players of this year's Super 14 tournament, doesn't believe Gregan has placed his Wallabies future in jeopardy by opting out of the trip.

"From my perspective, he's doing exactly what I did last year and I think a rest and an excellent off-season can be wonderful for a player," he said.

"And a guy as professional as George Gregan is, I've got no doubt he'll come back better next year."

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2024 AAP

0 Comments about this article

Post a comment about this article

Please sign in to leave a comment.
Becoming a member is free and easy, sign up here.

« All sports news