World Cup the ultimate for Wallaroos debutant

(IRB.COM) Thursday 6 August 2009
 World Cup the ultimate for Wallaroos debutant
Family likeness: Kristy Giteau admits the only comparison with her brother is in their appearance - Photo:

To make your international debut in the pressure cooker of a one-off Women's Rugby World Cup qualifier in Samoa would be nerve-wracking enough, but to do so as the sister of one of the Wallabies' star players only adds to the weight of expectation.

Kristy Giteau, though, is taking it all in her stride. The 28-year-old supports her brother 100 percent but will line up on the wing for the Wallaroos in their play-off against Samoa and is quick to dispel any talk of 'pressure by comparison'.

"Matt and myself play completely different positions, he is a ball player and calls the plays, I am basically one of those people on the outside who try to finish off the plays," Kristy told Total Rugby from the Samoan capital Apia earlier this week.

"For me, we have different roles within the team and we also have completely different skills that we need to focus on.


"Generally I think on appearance people tend to make that comparison and put pressure on me to be something of his status, but I think after watching me play they know we are different people and we have a different job to do on the field.

"It is more so I think just being valued with the team for your abilities. Ultimately I don't put myself in the same category as him and picking up the sport so late there are so many skills that still need to be further developed."

Eighteen months older than 68-cap veteran Matt, Kristy may be new to international rugby but is no stranger to representing Australia, having played rugby league for her country and toured USA and China with the Australian Schools basketball team.

Her multi-sport background is something that Wallaroos head coach John Manenti believes has aided her rugby development and earned her a starting berth as one of two uncapped players - the other centre Cobie Morgan - for this must-win match.

"She has got a really competitive spirit and no doubt that is probably something that she picked up in the back yard," admitted Manenti. "Kristy is really strong and has the ability to fend players off.

"She has good vision and has managed to transfer some of her basketball skills. She is doing really well."

World Cup experience

Manenti is fortunate to be able to name a squad brimming with experience, both from the last Women's Rugby World Cup in 2006, when Australia finished seventh, and from the players who secured their own piece of history as the first ever Women's Sevens world champions with an extra-time victory over New Zealand in Dubai back in March.

Eight of the starting line-up to face Samoa played in the 2006 World Cup, including Alex Hargreaves, Ruan Sims, Tricia Brown and current captain Cheryl Soon and all were also influential figures as Australia were crowned women's champions at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2009.

Nicole Beck, Tui Ormsby and Player of the Tournament Debby Hodgkinson were also part of that victorious squad in Dubai and Kristy admits that their presence in this Wallaroos squad has been a huge benefit to the whole squad, particularly the newcomers.

"Having a lot of the members that were involved in winning the Sevens this year in our teams obviously is definitely something that we are very grateful for," added Kristy, who also admitted that Matt was more nervous than her when the initial Wallaroos squad was named last month.

"I think we rely a lot on their experience and their leadership to guide us younger players, although when I say younger I don't mean I'm young - I mean newcomers that are onto the team!

Ultimate goal

"We definitely have expectations for our team, but in saying that, we also know that playing Samoa in Samoa with the locals at the ground is going to be a huge task that we are going to have to try and rise to the occasion. Hopefully we can deliver on the day."

Local rivals New Zealand qualified automatically for next year's showpiece event in England as 2006 champions, making the stakes even higher. Having got the better of the kiwis in Sevens, the Wallaroos now want the chance to halt New Zealand's hat-trick of 15-a-side successes. The spirit and desire for success within the camp is something that newcomer Giteau has noticed.

"Travelling with the team I think there is nothing better, being surrounded by your teammates who want a similar goal in that ultimately we want to win here in Samoa and even being supported by some locals here has been fantastic.

"We are hoping for a win, that is our short-term goal. We know it is going to be a huge obstacle, but our ultimate goal is to get to England next year for the World Cup.

"I have often been involved in team sports and in team environments but definitely this group is by far one of the best. We are all equally excited, excited by the prospect of getting a win (over Samoa) so we can then as a team build towards the World Cup."

Australia Women: 1. Danielle Meskell 2. Silei Poluleuligaga 3. Kylie Pennell 4. Kate Porter 5. Chris Ross 6. Rebecca Trethowan 7. Alexandra Hargreaves 8. Debby Hodgkinson 9. Cheryl Soon (Captain) 10. Tui Ormsby 11. Nicole Beck 12. Cobie Morgan 13. Ruan Sims 14. Kristy Giteau 15. Tricia Brown.

Replacements: 16. Emerena Marsh 17. Seei Sau 18. Rebecca Clough 19. Dalena Dennison 20. Iliseva Batibasaga 21. Ashleigh Hewson 22. Sharni Williams.