The former Australian international set up and scored the game’s opening try and was at Wilkinson’s side throughout the game as they defeated Saracens 23-6.
“Matt’s individual contributions to the game were incredible, all the way through,” Wilkinson said. “He’s a damn good player who can just about do everything, and he’s the reason why someone like me realises my time is up.
“You look at him doing what he does, and you think that’s where the future of this team is. I certainly want to see him flourish, he’s been an inspiration to me, and I know he will be to this team in the future.”
That’s high praise indeed from the one player in professional rugby that most look up to and aspire to produce even a fraction of what Wilkinson can, but Wilkinson is adamant that Giteau is a game-changer.
“Since he’s been here he’s done nothing but bring this team up, give them more and make us all better players,” he added. “I wouldn’t survive out there without guys like him, his ability to selflessly do the extra work, take on extra responsibility, make the difficult calls.
“He could say ‘that’s not my position, that’s not my job’ but he never does. There have been times during the season where I haven’t made the first few kicks, and I’ve asked him to take the next one and he just steps up and does it.
“He never says anything about it, he just gets on with it, and that’s the kind of guy he is.”
With his playing career set to come to an end after next week’s Top14 final against Castres where Toulon could achieve a famous double and finally secure the league title that has eluded them, Wilkinson is expected to become a part of the Toulon coaching team in a similar role to former Ireland outside-half Ronan O’Gara’s situation at Racing Métro.
Wilkinson may have kicked 13 of Toulon’s 23 points in the final, but he was at pains to ensure his team-mates get the recognition they deserve and admitted to being humbled at the standing ovation he received as he went off with three minutes remaining.
“I’ve made no secret of the fact I’ve been over-supported, I’ve been given way too much respect,” he said. “I’ve been given too much of an easy life compared to others who have deserved so much more but haven’t had it.
“I’ve tried to keep my feet on the ground, otherwise someone’s going to realise I’m a bit of a fraud.
“You’re lucky enough to be surrounded by such quality players, and yet it’s not these guys around me that get the adulation and applause.
“When guys go out of their way to cheer for you, it’s humbling.”
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