Matt Giteau admits he once took his spot in the Wallabies for granted and he also makes it clear it won’t happen again.
The 32-year-old’s return from exile in France to the Test arena is complete after he was named in coach Michael Cheika’s team to play South Africa in their Rugby Championship opener in Brisbane, getting first crack at securing the inside centre berth for the World Cup.
His return comes nearly four years after he was omitted from then-coach Robbie Deans’ 2011 World Cup squad, sparking his divorce from Australian rugby after 92 Tests.
Giteau, a beneficiary of the Australian Rugby Union’s relaxed elibigility rules for oversaes-based veterans, said he was a changed man in many ways.
“I’ve matured a lot I think, both on and off the field,” Giteau said.
“Having kids and just seeing rugby in a different light has done that to me.
“I realise the importance and position I was in, the privilege I had, which I took for granted.
“Now it’s one I really cherish, I’m very proud to be back in the team.”
Giteau’s teammate at French club Toulon, winger Drew Mitchell, who qualified for selection under the same 60-cap rule, has been named to return on the Wallabies bench.
Giteau joked that the only thing Mitchell had brought back to the Wallabies set-up, other than an increased average age, was an inclination towards “French kissing”.
The Wallabies starting backline will have plenty to talk about in their down time, given that over half of them are set to play in France after the World Cup with Quade Cooper and Will Genia bound for Toulon and Stade Francais respectively.
Cooper and Genia will start in the Wallabies halves together for the first time since November 2013 and, with Giteau sharing the playmaking load alongside them, against South Africa on Saturday, it’s both a throwback to the past and also a glimpse into the future for Australian rugby.
“The things they can bring to the side, it’s great to play outside those players,” Giteau said.
“They’ve got the experience at Suncorp, but having said that you’ve got Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Matt Toomua – some great depth, and we’re continually challenging each other at training.
“That’s what you’re after – no certainty in your position, you’re always competing for that spot.”