Hard to fathom that this year’s Rugby World Cup brings up the 20-year anniversary since the 2003 RWC tournament in Australia. A contest where Wallabies playmaker Matt Giteau would be involved in one of the more epic finales in all RWC folklore.
The 40-year-old was then in his early career with the Australian national team, after starring for the ACT Brumbies as a teenager. He would play in three Rugby World Cups (RWC) and only recently was playing for the LA Giltini when they won the 2021 Major League Rugby Shield.
2003 RWC 20th Anniversary: Matt Giteau interview
To celebrate the current World Cup and the classic North v South cup final, Last Word on Rugby contributor Larissa Falls interviews former Wallabies play-marker Matt Giteau, to review his memories of that tournament and his involvement, as well as discuss the state of the game, the Wallabies, and the ongoing 2023 event in France.
What are your memories of the 2003 RWC?
It was all a blur. My very first one (2003) we made it all the way to the Final thinking that “this is easy,” when in fact it’s not.
I was just in a very special team. And it was an amazing experience.
Your favourite moment from the 2003 RWC?
There are so many great moments. My first start for the Wallabies against Namibia; my first Try for the Wallabies against Romania; when I started to first feel somewhat comfortable in the Test arena.
We also just had such a good group [of players] and had a lot of fun. The World Cup Final, we made it, but obviously lost that one. But to be involved in it was very special.
What changes – good or bad – have you most noticed about rugby over the last 20 years?
Definitely Social Media and the presence that it’s had, and how it’s changed almost the player’s freedom in some ways.
But also, the jerseys! The outfits the players wear now are a lot more tailored than what we wore back in 2003. Back then it was almost a one-size-fits-all!
How has rugby shaped your life over the previous two decades?
Rugby has shaped my life massively! It taught me discipline, teamwork, and thinking about others. The travelling experiences, the countries that I got to play in and the cultures I got to experience- and also this was for my family as well.
It’s almost impossible to list everything because it’s really shaped who I am as a person; my beliefs, the way that I think and train, everything.
A piece of advice for players this RWC?
The advice I would give would be for players not to go looking for the big highlights but just play your natural game. Also, really enjoy it and soak it all up because these are special occasions that only come around every four years. If you’re lucky enough to play in a few of them, then you’re very fortunate. But to get the opportunity just to play in one and to represent your country for the greatest prize in rugby, I think you should really cherish it and enjoy it!
How do you think the Wallabies will fare at the World Cup?
I think the Wallabies are in a great space. They’ve obviously not got the results at the moment but they’ve been changing the personnel.
A lot of people were saying “Is this too soon for Eddie Jones to turn the team around for a World Cup?” and after two games in the Rugby Championship, people are again saying, “We’ve got the wrong coach”. But I think we have the right coach; we just have to be patient. We’ve got the right players and it’s just a matter of them getting confidence; Eddie finding the best squad; and then having these players really performing when the World Cup comes around.
“But I have a lot of belief in Australia and their chances.”
Australia competes in Pool C of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, facing Georgia, Fiji, Wales, and Portugal.
“Main photo credit Wikimedia Creative Commons”