A refreshed Matt Giteau says the Wallabies see opportunities to exploit against the all-conquering All Blacks in the Rugby Championship decider.
Expected to be named at inside centre for Saturday’s clash ANZ Stadium on Thursday, 32-year-old veteran Giteau is set to play his 22nd Test against the world champions dating right back to 2003 and the start of the great Bledisloe Cup drought.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is likely to reveal his World Cup thinking by fielding his strongest available team as Australia attempt to claim the Rugby Championship title and build Bledisloe Cup and World Cup momentum.
Giteau was rested from the Wallabies’ last-start win over Argentina after copping a buffeting in his international comeback during the victory over South Africa.
But he should return alongside No.8 Wycliff Palu (rested) and winger Henry Speight (suspended) who would be getting their first starts of the 2015 campaign.
Back from his three-year, self-imposed international exile in France, Giteau, who has four wins and 17 losses from his battles with the All Blacks, is looking forward to testing himself against the Kiwis again.
“I had a good opportunity to get some fitness and a lot of running done while the boys were away in Argentina,” Giteau said on Wednesday.
“No-one is really talking about previous results or the history that we’ve got.
“We’ve got an opportunity this weekend as a team to possibly win a title and that’s what we are focusing on.
Getting his first crack at the All Blacks, Cheika clearly has some carefully-laid plans around areas where he thinks the Wallabies can gain an edge and topple their great nemesis.
“I think there’s opportunities that we feel that, if we are good enough and if we can execute well enough, that we can put some points on the board,” Giteau said.
The All Blacks are coming off a last-gasp 27-20 victory over South Africa last weekend, but much like Cheika, New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has been experimenting and mixing up selections until now.
Giteau is facing a likely showdown with superstar code-hopper Sonny Bill Williams, who is expected start at No.12 as fellow midfield monster Ma’a Nonu has been battling a shoulder injury.
“It will be huge. He’s a great sporting talent and everyone knows what he’s capable of doing,” Giteau said.
“The depth they’ve got at inside centre is unbelievable.”
Giteau is expected start outside playmaker Bernard Foley, while former skipper James Horwill is tipped to come in as a starting lock to replace the injured Rob Simmons.
Meanwhile, inside back Matt Toomua and prop James Slipper have come through contact training well and are expected to be available the match after copping head knocks against Argentina.
Wallabies likely starting team (15-1): Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Giteau, Henry Speight, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock, Scott Fardy, James Horwill, Will Skelton, Greg Holmes, Stephen Moore, James Slipper.