Matt Giteau (above) has elevated Sunday’s championship hunt with the LA Giltinis to the same level as the trophy triumphs he pursued in Australia, France and Japan.
It is a striking measure of what winning Major League Rugby’s pinnacle final against Rugby ATL means for those involved at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Signing Australia's three-time World Cup star was the biggest recruitment coup of the off-season and Giteau has delivered in every way.
His hunger to keep pushing himself and his teammates to the highest standards is one reason why his career glows with six elite trophies in Australia (Brumbies), France (Toulon) and Japan (Suntory).
He is not just getting cute with words when rating Sunday’s 1pm (PT) climax.
“Sunday is as big as any of the championship games I’ve played,” Giteau said.
“It’s because I care. When you are really invested in something you feel that way...I want to win for the group.
“When players started meeting on Zoom calls last year, everyone talked about ‘August 1.’
“It wasn’t in an arrogant way because that would have been the goal of every team. It was in terms like...if we do this right, if we play to our potential, we get our reward on August 1.”
The great news is Giteau will be there at flyhalf after a rattling hit to the shoulder forced him off early in last weekend’s Western Conference final victory over the Utah Warriors.
Giteau was all but retired when the allure of joining the Giltinis, bringing his family to LA and one final rugby frontier hooked him to play on at 38.
It was a leap of faith because the newest MLR club only existed on paper and Zoom calls 10 months ago because of the global pandemic. The bonds forged through trying times together have made the Giltinis the team they are today.
“This while experience has flown by. What I signed for was to chase a title and we have that chance on Sunday," he said.
“It’s been exciting all the way to see how the club has grown from not even having a gym.
“The squat racks came in, a players’ lounge took shape, lockers arrived only a month or so ago.
“As players, all of us are watching the Giltinis grow and build a bit of history in LA.
“I’ve really enjoyed seeing how American players like Ryan James and John Ryberg have developed their games and confidence. Both bring a lot to the team.”
Giteau’s organisational skills and composure from flyhalf have been a feature this season. Picking the right time to attack is as important as knowing when a relieving kick for territory is the best option.
The polished playmaker has learnt lessons from his exposure to big finals.
“Finals are a different beast with their intensity. Get excited but one of the big things is not to play the game too early.”
See you Sunday.
The LA Giltinis face Rugby ATL in Sunday’s Championship final from 1pm (PT) at the Coliseum.
Tickets start at $10 + service fees.
The match will be broadcast live on CBS in USA and can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.