Wallabies legend Matt Giteau announces shock return to rugby union

The Wallabies great has announced he is returning to rugby at the age of 41 for MLR side San Diego.

Pictured Matt Giteau
Former Wallabies player Matt Giteau has announced he is returning to rugby at the age of 41. Image: Getty

Former Wallabies star Matt Giteau has announced he is making a comeback to rugby at the age of 41 after signing with Major League Rugby (MLR) side San Diego for the 2024 season. Giteau represented Australia 103 times in his illustrious career which saw him play at three Rugby World Cups.

More than two decades after making his international debut, Giteau announced in February that he would be retiring from the game after playing his last match for former MLR club the LA Giltinis. However, he has backflipped on his decision and says he will go one more season.

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"This is definitely, definitely my last season. Wife made me promise," Giteau wrote on social media on Wednesday night. San Diego coach Danny Lee said he was "over the moon" that the Wallabies legend was joining the team for next season.

"We are over the moon to secure Matt’s services for the upcoming season," Lee said in a statement. "He is a world-class player who will bring an incredible wealth of knowledge, a competitive attitude, and a drive to succeed with him that will no doubt spread throughout the squad."

Giteau made his Super Rugby debut in 2001 and was instrumental in Australia's run to the 2015 World Cup final. He has also won three European Cups after moving to French side Toulon and had stints in Japan and the United States.

Matt Giteau's law part of his lasting legacy on Australian rugby

While many remember Giteau for his heroics on the field, he also left a lasting legacy by being the driving force behind Rugby Australia’s decision to backflip on not allowing players based overseas to represent their country. In what is often referred to as 'Giteau Law', the 2015 law allows senior Wallabies players to play overseas- where the standard wages are often much higher- and still be eligible to represent Australia.

TWICKENHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03: Matt Giteau of Australia dives over to score a try during the 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between England and Australia at Twickenham Stadium on October 03, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images)
Matt Giteau represented Australia 103 times in his illustrious career which saw him play at three Rugby World Cups. Image: Getty (Mitchell Gunn via Getty Images)

The Giteau Law was introduced in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup and has been amended several times since. As it stands any overseas-based player who has represented Australia in 30 or more Tests or has played five seasons in Super Rugby can be selected for the Wallabies.

Rugby Australia lose star Mark Nawaqanitawase to the NRL

Rugby Australia confirmed Mark Nawaqanitawase's defection to the NRL and Sydney Roosters earlier this month in a major coup for the 13-man code after Joseph Suaalii went the other way. The Wallabies winger will join the Roosters on a two-year deal in 2025 after Suaalii moves to the NSW Waratahs.

Nawaqanitawase has played 11 Test matches for the Wallabies since making his debut on last year's tour of Europe. The defection comes as another big loss for Rugby Australia (RA) after the hugely disappointing showing at the recent World Cup.

"We are disappointed, Mark has been a strong player over the last 12 months," RA chief executive Phil Waugh said in a statement on Thursday. "However, the outside backs are a position of strength for us, with great depth coming through. We are confident we are well-stocked with talented wingers for the future."

Rugby Australia also closed the door on Nawaqanitawase appearing for the Wallabies in 2024 before he heads to the NRL. "Rugby Australia wishes to thank Nawaqanitawase for his efforts in his 11 Test appearances, as well as for the Waratahs and the Australia Sevens team at the Commonwealth Games," the organisation said in a statement.

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