GLASGOW Warriors’ hopes of the Fijian winger Taqele Naiyaravoro honouring his commitment to the Scotstoun club received a modest boost yesterday when the player’s agent claimed his client would come to Scotland for “at least a year”.
Naiyaravoro signed a three-year contract with Glasgow back in May, but much has changed in the intervening months.
While Fiji’s coach John McKee had harboured hopes of the Waratahs’ star playing for the country of his birth at the World Cup, the sudden intervention of Australia seemed to quash that hope and also threw into doubt his move to the Warriors.
The Wallabies named Naiyaravoro in their squad for the Rugby Championship tournament which begins today, leading to widespread speculation in the Australian press that the player would remain Down Under and renege on the Glasgow deal.
A move away from Australia would likely rule Naiyaravoro out of contention for the Wallabies.
But his agent, Tyran Smith, claims the player will join up with Gregor Townsend’s side.
“He’s definitely coming to Glasgow to honour his commitments, at least for the first year,” Smith told BBC Scotland.
“There’s a bit of a personal family thing – he’s had another baby and his wife was finding it hard for personal reasons.
“She needed his support and moving away was a big decision, but he’s honouring his first commitment, then we’ll go from there.
“He’s been a little bit naive. I’ve heard all the reports and I’ve been in contact regularly with him clarifying.”
Naiyaravoro has not been named in the Australia match-day 23 for their opening Rugby Championship game against South Africa tomorrow.
But there is a place for Matt Giteau, with the 92-cap veteran recalled to the team after a four-year absence.
The 32-year-old, France-based Giteau will start at inside centre, outside the restored half-back pairing of Will Genia and Quade Cooper, who’ll be starting a Test as a combination for the first time since November 2013.
The Rugby Championship is in an abbreviated, one-round format this season as the four participating countries prepare for the World Cup starting in September.
So Australia coach Michael Cheika chose to install the experienced veterans immediately, naming them ahead of the incumbent combination of Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley.
“With new combinations comes a new level of energy to our team environment and Will, Quade and Matt certainly bring that,” Cheika said. “Matt is a true professional and his impact on the team dynamic has been immediate.”
Giteau was dropped from the Wallabies squad by Robbie Deans ahead of the 2011 World Cup and later moved to France to play for Toulon, making him ineligible for Australia. But a change in selection policies in April made Giteau and his Toulon team-mate Drew Mitchell available again for national duties.
The ARU has relaxed its selection policy by extending eligibility to overseas-based veterans if they have played at least 60 Tests and held a professional contract with the ARU for at least seven years.
“From a body point of view, it took a bit of adjusting last week (but)… I feel like I’ve adjusted well,” said Giteau, who described his reunion with Genia and Cooper as “very old times”. The last time they played side-by-side in the 9, 10, 12 combination was in November 2010, when Australia lost 35-18 to England at Twickenham.
“They’re quality players – great players. They’ve got the experience at Suncorp,” Giteau said of the Queensland half-backs. “Some great depth we’ve got in the squad – continually challenging each other… always competing for the spot.”
Hooker Stephen Moore regained the captaincy from Michael Hooper, who was skipper last year in his absence. Hooper retained the starting No 7 jersey, though, in a close tussle with David Pocock, who will start on the bench.
Pocock “has showed tremendous grit and termination to return to the Wallabies,” Cheika said. “To be out of the Wallabies environment for two years and return a better player shows his character; it is something he, and this country, should be proud of.”
Giteau made his debut for Australia at age 20 in 2002 and played in the 2003 and 2007 World Cups as a versatile inside back. He admitted in March he’d been bitter after Deans dropped him in 2011, but that getting married, having children and moving to Europe had helped give him a healthier perspective and meant he didn’t spurn the chance of a return.
Giteau will work with Tevita Kuridrani in the centres. His long-time team-mate Adam Ashley-Cooper is on the wing, in a back three that also includes Rob Horne and Israel Folau.
The giant lock Will Skelton will partner Rob Simmons in the second row, with Cheika adding bulk against the big South Africa pack. Former skipper James Horwill is the reserve lock on an experienced bench.
Australia has a strong record in Brisbane, and has lost only one match to South Africa at Suncorp Stadium, venue for Saturday’s match.
The tournament begins today when New Zealand host Argentina.