Former World Cup coaches and players have criticised the decision to axe Matt Giteau from the Wallabies' team for this weekend's Tri-Nations opener with South Africa, reports said on Thursday.
Eddie Jones and John Connolly jumped to Giteau's defence after the one-time indispensable team member was this week left out of the 22-man squad to play South Africa in Sydney on Saturday.
Jones said coach Robbie Deans had "pulled the wrong rope" by dropping Giteau, while Connolly rated the 28-year-old flyhalf/inside centre as one of the mentally toughest players he had seen.
Commentators said Giteau's omission cast doubt over Giteau's involvement in the Wallabies' World Cup campaign later this year.
Jones, who led Australia to the 2003 World Cup Final, said he was baffled by Deans's decision and said opposition teams would be happy to see Giteau left out.
"I think the whole thing is quite sad to be honest," Jones told The Sydney Morning Herald.
"If I was a supporter, the one player I'd be happy to pay money to see would be [Giteau] - he gives his heart every week.
"Right now, for some reason, Robbie doesn't see him as the answer at No.12."
Connolly said the 92-Test veteran needed to be given a major role if the Wallabies wanted to be successful at September's World Cup in New Zealand.
Connolly, who was in charge of Australia for the 2007 tournament, said Giteau is one of "the toughest characters I've ever coached".
"I've coached first-class rugby for 20 years and two people spring to mind for what they bring to team [in toughness] - Matt Giteau and Tim Horan," Connolly told the Herald.
Wallaby great Horan said Giteau was too good a player not to go to the World Cup.
"For a number of reasons I would not only have selected him in this weekend's 22, but I would have him on the plane to New Zealand as well," Horan wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
"His experience and quality are unquestionable, and Giteau's leadership at the ACT Brumbies during a battling 2011 season was impressive," Horan said.
"Those are the qualities you need in a World Cup squad."
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