Mitchell backs Giteau’s Wallabies return

If Matt Giteau’s worst fears are realised, it probably won’t be up to the recalled veteran to tell coach Michael Cheika he can’t cut it in Tests.

“We won’t have to seek Cheik for that conversation – he will seek us,” Giteau’s mate and fellow Wallabies recall Drew Mitchell warned.

“We will either be on the flight to the next destination the Wallabies are playing or on a flight back to France.”

But Mitchell has backed Giteau to inspire the Wallabies in his long-awaited return in Saturday night’s Rugby Championship clash with South Africa in Brisbane.

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer has also emerged as a fan, throwing his support behind the Wallabies “talisman” ahead of the series opener at Suncorp Stadium.

Giteau’s selection at inside centre and whether Cheika opts for incumbent Wallabies No.7 Michael Hooper or fit-again ex-skipper David Pocock are the key debates ahead of Thursday’s team announcement.

French club Toulon star Giteau earned a Wallabies return after the ARU changed eligibility rules for overseas-based players who have at least 60 Test caps.

But the 32-year-old revealed he felt his selection in his first Wallabies campaign since being overlooked for the 2011 World Cup felt “unjustified”.

Giteau even admitted he would approach Cheika and reconsider a 2015 World Cup tilt if he felt he was not up to Test standard after the Brisbane clash.

His Toulon teammate Mitchell reckoned that would not be necessary.

“He’s a straight up, honest guy and if he thinks he’s not up to it, he will have that chat but I think his form warrants it: he is consistently a top-three player in Europe,” he said of the 92-Test veteran.

“He’s a better player now (he has left Australia) – rugby has found a rightful place in his life.

“He’s got a wife and kids now. He said in the past he put too much importance on rugby, felt the pressure through the media and found himself not being able to play to the best of his ability.

“But he’s a more rounded player now.”

Meyer also sang Giteau’s praises.

“I highly rate Matt Giteau. I think he’s an unbelievable player – whether that be at 10 or 12,” he said after naming his side on Wednesday.

“He’s a talisman, I believe, for them.”

He also expected to see both Pocock and Hooper in second-half action this weekend, tipping Australia to pick six forwards on the bench.

“He’s a quality player. Coming from South Africa, we should have probably moved in there and got him to South Africa,” Meyer said of Pocock ahead of his first Test in almost three years.

“It’s good to see him back.”

Meanwhile, South Africa picked veteran flanker Schalk Burger at No.8 in the only change to the starting side that thrashed a World XV 46-10 last weekend.

Possible Wallabies starting team: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Rob Horne, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Scott Higginbotham, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Will Skelton, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, James Slipper.

Springboks: Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Handre Pollard, Ruan Pienaar, Schalk Burger, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield (capt), Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Heinke van der Merwe, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Oupa Mohoje, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo.

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