With nearly a century of Tests to his name, Matt Giteau is hardly David to Sam Burgess’ Goliath – but he’s ready to take down the giant all the same at the Rugby World Cup.
At 85kg and 178cm, Giteau gives up nearly 20cm and a staggering 31kg in his match-up with the powerful Burgess – should the pair, as expected, be picked as opposing inside centres for the all-important Pool A clash between England and Australia on Saturday (Sunday AEST) at Twickenham.
When asked about the size mismatch, Giteau laughs.
“I think everyone has size on me,” said Giteau.
“That’s nothing new. I’m used to always playing guys that are bigger than me.
“It’s just a matter of trying to deal with that and looking for my own areas that I can improve on or how I can impose myself on the game.”
Giteau has donned the Wallaby gold 97 times and would be in line to bring up a century in the quarter-finals should he hold his spot and Australia reach the knockout games.
In his 13-year career at the top, he has taken on opponents of all sizes – and come out on top more often than not.
“Defensively, Gits is really dogged,” explains backs coach Stephen Larkham.
“He puts his body on the line 100 per cent of the time so it will be a great match-up.
“He’s certainly not going to take a backwards step.”
Burgess was a controversial selection in England’s World Cup squad, having played just one Test before the announcement, following his switch from the NRL at the end of last year.
Ahead of his second Test start against Wales on Saturday night, Burgess had played less than two hours of international rugby.
However, at this World Cup, he has been praised for sparking England’s attack with direct running and offloads – firstly from the bench against Fiji, and then from the starting whistle against Wales.
He’s been learning on the job, recently admitting some of the laws of the game are still foreign to him, but Giteau is impressed by how impressively the former South Sydney star has taken to the 15-a-side game.
Giteau likened Burgess’ impact to that of another code-hopping star – brilliant All Black Sonny Bill Williams.
“He’s very similar to Sonny, not in the way they play because they may play a little different, but they are both great athletes,” Giteau said.
“Just because of his size, he attracts defenders. He’s an athlete and he played a bit of backrow for Bath.
“I think he understands the rucks and the style of game that they’re trying to play.
“Defensively, he’s always going to be solid. And in attack, he adds a different element with his offloading game.”