Giteau hopes to avoid further WC heartache

Having already had two Rugby World Cup dreams snatched from him by England, Matt Giteau isn’t keen to let a third slip at the hands of Australia’s fierce rivals.

It’s a scenario which faces Giteau and the Wallabies again this Saturday (Sunday AEDT), with the enormous clash at Twickenham likely to decide the fate of which team goes through to the knockout stages this year.

England’s loss to Wales means a defeat to the Wallabies will ensure they become the first host nation to be knocked out in the pool stages – while Australia’s failure to secure a bonus point in their win over Fiji puts them in dire straits should they fail to secure the four points.

For Giteau, whose World Cup memories against England include heartbreaking defeats in the 2003 final and quarter-final in 2007, the stakes are high.

The man who stabbed a right-footed drop goal through the posts in 2003, and a dagger through the hearts of Australian rugby fans, is England legend Jonny Wilkinson, who also kicked four penalties in the 12-10 win in 2007 in Marseille.

Giteau says that becoming friends and teammates with the left-footed Wilkinson at Toulon, and learning how hard he trains, has helped ease some of the pain from the ’03 decider – but not all of it.

“Knowing that it wasn’t a fluke in 2003, that drop goal, does somewhat ease it,” Giteau said.

“While you’re so close to winning a World Cup, and I think I took that for granted, thinking ‘oh next World Cup, we’ll win it’.

“But there’s such a hard competition, they’re a hard thing to win.

“While the heartache of losing it, that still burns a little bit now, (and) you’d love to win a World Cup, knowing that it’s not a fluke and how hard he trains kind of eased that a little bit.”

That is part of the reason why the inside centre, who was not selected for the 2011 tournament after a falling out with then-coach Robbie Deans, doesn’t believe any emotional baggage will weigh him down on Saturday night.

Giteau will play at Twickenham for the first time since winning the Heineken Cup with Toulon in May, when fellow Wallaby Drew Mitchell scored a magnificent solo try to seal the match.

And while the atmosphere will be different, with a predominantly pro-England contingent dominating the 82,000-strong crowd, he expects to get a similar feeling of chills up the spine.

“The really big stadiums, even Millennium, when you turn up to do the captain’s run, you get a sense of confidence,” he said.

“It’s a big game; it’s a big stadium – it’s why you play.

“I’ve been away from the Test arena for so long that getting do to those pre-runs in the big stadiums is something that you miss.

“You miss those big environments, the big occasions.

“I think I get (the chills) more so now, because it hasn’t been a consistent feeling for a long time.

“It’s almost like I’ve restarted all over again – I suppose I don’t take it for granted.

“I’m very grateful to get the opportunity and, to play against the host nation in a World Cup, it’s very special.”

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