ESPN Aussies Abroad
Giteau, Mitchell reflect on life on French Riviera
ESPN Staff
July 24, 2014
Toulon are not mercenary, Matt Giteau tells Aussies Abroad

Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell represented Australia with honour on rugby pitches around the world, cherishing their years in the revered gold Wallabies jersey. And both have ridden the rollerc-oaster of life as a professional rugby player, with Mitchell, in particular, staring down the barrel of career-ending injury before a miraculous reprieve that has the medicos stumped to this day.

Neither now is in contention for the Test team, having moved to the south of France to play for European powerhouse Toulon, but that is of no concern to them. They are loving life in Toulon, each playing some of the finest rugby of their career and each assuming a key role in the club's back-to-back Heineken Cup victories and this year's French Top 14 league crown.

Giteau moved to Toulon after being omitted from the Wallabies squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, although he told ESPN Aussies Abroad that he had decided before that bombshell that he was heading overseas.

"I just feel that Super Rugby for me was becoming, it wasn't exciting for me," Giteau told Aussies Abroad. "I'd played in Super Rugby for 10 years. I'd been to South Africa, been in New Zealand, you'd done the same tour for such a number of years that I felt I needed a change, for me to find that, that love of rugby back."

Giteau said he headed to Toulon as he "just thought it would a great time for me and a perfect time for me you know the way I could sense that my career was coming to an end in Australia as well", and Mitchell signed ahead of the 2012-2013 Top 14 season after overcoming a potentially career-ending ankle injury because "I didn't want to miss that opportunity of not playing over here".

Drew Mitcheel (left) and Matt Giteau (centre right) are in career-best form in Toulon © Twitter

Both players headed to France knowing the move would end their Test career, as Australia do not select overseas-based players, but Mitchell says the selectors "in some cases should" consider overseas stars. "If your best player in a certain position is not in Australia then you know … "

Australian players are increasingly likely to head overseas due to the lucrative nature of club rugby in France, England and Japan, in particular, and already Wallabies stars Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale are reportedly subject of big-money bids from Top 14 clubs. Australian rugby cannot afford to match the contracts on offer elsewhere, yet they cannot afford to lose players such as Folau from the Wallabies fold, hence Mitchell believes the selectors "should at least consider" overseas-based players.

Mitchell and Giteau each accept that such a decision, if ever it is made, will come too late for them. And they are content in that knowledge.

"I'm happy with where I'm at in my life and I, I feel that Australian's rugby in, in the right direction," Giteau told Aussies Abroad. "We've got some great young players and if they had an abundance, a ridiculous amount, of injuries and they needed me to play, I'd always put my hand up. But I feel that they're better off without me at the moment and I'm happy that way."

Watch Aussies Abroad on ESPN, Tuesday, July 29, from 8.30pm (EST), 10.30pm (NZ).

ESPN Aussies Abroad host Jason Bennett takes you behind the scenes at one of the world's most powerful rugby clubs -Toulon - as Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell provide a unique insight into European club rugby. They also talk openly and honestly about their relationship with previous Wallabies coaches, as well as their involvement with Western Force during the infamous Firepower years.

Good times in Toulon © Twitter
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