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Giteau marked man in European Cup final

AAP
Friday, May 23, 2014

Update: 7:304PM Former Wallaby Matt Giteau will be a carefully marked man when his French Club Toulon meet England outfit Saracens in Saturday's European Cup final in Cardiff.

The build-up to the match has been dominated by the imminent retirement of Toulon fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, with the England great -- 35 on Sunday -- set to bow out from all rugby following next weekend's French Top 14 final against Castres.

Saracens, in their first European Cuo final, are also eyeing a 'double' ahead of their English Premiership final with Northampton.

Wilkinson's remorseless goal-kicking was responsible for all of reigning European champions Toulon's points in their 24-12 semi-final win over Saracens last season.

But Sracens coach Mark McCall has been impressed too by 31-year-old inside centre Giteau, who won the last of his 92 Wallaby caps three years ago.

"He (Giteau) a very special player, because he's got not only a fantastic passing game, he kicks the ball well, he's stronger and quicker than most people think," said McCall.

"And he's at his most dangerous when he's at the line with a winger on his inside, and you can't take your eye off him for a second, he's a superb player."

Giteau, for his part, would just like to help one-time rival Wilkinson go out on a high.

"Jonny is the ultimate professional," said the Giteau, a member of the Australia side beaten by Wilkinson's boot in the 2007 World Cup quarter-finals in Marseille and a temporary replacement when the England star's extra-time drop-goal downed the Wallabies in a thrilling Sydney final four years earlier.

"It is incredibly important for us to have him sign off with a trophy.

"He was instrumental in helping me settle in Toulon when I joined three years ago... It has been a pleasure to be in the same team."

Meanwhile Wilkinson has, typically, tried to remove himself from the spotlight by saying: "I would like to focus all my attention and energy on the team and these final two games of the season."

Toulon, bankrolled by wealthy publisher Mourad Boudjellal, boast a star-studded team with South Africa wing Bryan Habana joining Wilkinson and Giteau in the backs, while up front they boast formidable locks in Springbok Bakkies Botha and All Black Ali Williams.

In some ways their side is reminiscent of the one Saracens, still backed by millionaire businessman Nigel Wray, fielded in the early days of professional rugby union when South Africa's Francois Pienaar, Australia's Michael Lynagh and France's Philippe Sella all played for the north London club.

However, McCall was in no doubt that Toulon, coached by former France boss Bernard Laporte, were a star side, not a side full of stars.

"There are examples of teams who have spent a lot of money, or brought in stars, and then not delivered," said the former Ireland international.

"But Toulon seem to have chosen very well, with the squad they have got they have a great togetherness, spirit and camaraderie, and on top of that they are all good players."


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