The Team That Never Travelled: Part Five, Inside Centre

Plenty of quality centres are missing from the World Cup. Some are the victims of well-stacked strength in their position, some have suffered due to their age profile, and others have been left behind because their coach is bonkers.

Matt Giteau wearing the most Australian expression in the world

The Mole’s notes for Matt Giteau [28, Australia & Toulon] read “How the f*ck is this guy not at the World Cup?” I’m fairly sure those readers who have been Mole regulars will know that Giteau’s omission from the Australian World Cup squad is something of a cause celebre in Mole Towers.

To rehash one of about a dozen articles that have already been posted on this website … the lad is twenty-eight, he was nominated for the IRB International Player of the Year Award in 2009, won the John Eales medal the same year, has 92 international caps and 29 international tries under his belt and can play pretty much anywhere in midfield. Berrick Barnes, Rob Horne, Anthony Faainga and Pat McCabe were all chosen ahead of him. Jesus wept.

Yannick Jauzion's tough life

Yannick Jauzion [33, France & Toulouse] is another high profile casualty of Marc Lievremont’s selection policy. In fairness to Clouseau, I’ve no doubt that he watches far more Top 14 than I do, and there have been a number of comments about Jauzion not being the force he once was. I’d liken it to the situation when all the Aussie backs were going on about Brian O’Driscoll, obviously not having seen [for example] the most recent European Cup where Jonny Sexton and Sean O’Brien were running amuck for Leinster. Maybe Jauzion has been phoning it in recently?

On the other side of that argument is the fact that he put in a very serious season with Toulouse [1390 minutes of gametime, the second most of any of their players] and looked extremely dangerous in the latter stages of the Heineken Cup. He still looks like a player of the very highest quality, and seems to have suffered for being involved in the French defeat against Italy in the Six Nations. Still, picking Patrice Estebanez ahead of him is a very, very odd call. Estebanez is a bit of a journeyman who has played a lot of rugby league in France and only made his international debut last November as a 28-year old. From recent Top 14 rugby [especially the absolute cracker of a match between Toulouse and Racing Metro] it looks like Jauzion is still in good form, so I’m going to mark this down as yet another bonkers decision.

Luke McAlister: Really surprising that he moved away from NZ after RWC07

Luke McAllister [27, NZ & Toulouse] is an interesting case. The Kiwis are absolutely loaded at second five-eighth and centre, with Superstar Sunny-Bull Wull’yums, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Richard Kahui, and McAllister is out in the cold. From the first couple of years of his international career, it all looked like it’d be so different.

He made his run-on debut as an All Black as the outhalf in the third test against the Lions in 2005, which is a pretty massive game. With Dan Carter in the No10 jersey, starts in that position were always going to be at a premium; not a massive worry for McAlister, as he was always considered more of a second five-eighth. He managed to edge the excellent Aaron Mauger out of the black No12 jersey in time for RWC07, and he had a blinding tournament … all the way up to the yellow card in the quarter-final against France. Don’t. Mention. The. War.

Post that incident, he returned to his childhood home in Sale [they’d lived near there when his old man had played the Northern Code for a bunch of It’s Grim Up North league teams] and obviously raked in a recent packet for himself. However, his return to New Zealand in 2009 didn’t exactly go to plan. He signed up for the Blues and while he got some international gametime in the second half of that year, Graham Henry obviously thought he’d lost something and he hasn’t played any international rugby since November 2009.

He has since burnt his bridges with Auckland, the Blues and the NZRFU and negotiated an early release from his contract, signing on with Toulouse. He’s doing well there.

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