Baa-Baas To Cause Wallabies Headaches
It will be an examination that Coach Robbie Deans will cherish, when his first test match of 2009 is against one of the most star studded selection sides ever seen.
When William Percy Carpmael—the man credited with the creation of the Barbarians concept—had the famous meeting in April of 1890 which formed the club, he would have had little idea that the vision would have grown to the heights it has today.
Officially, the Barbarians played the Hartlepool Rovers on the 27th December 1890, winning 9-4; the first ever match for the famous black and white hooped team.
Since then, some of the greatest players in rugby have represented the side, from the incomparable A.J.F O’Reilly who played for the Barbarians 30 times and scored 38 tries (more than any other Barbarian) through to players such as Gerald Davies, Mike Gibson, Bill Beaumont, Phillipe Sella, Michael Lynagh, Francois Pienaar and Jonah Lomu.
And that tradition looks to be enforced by an incredible looking squad containing 775 test caps.
From the three quarters we see an English wing combination of 2003 World Cup winners Iain Balshaw and Josh Lewsey combine with Geordan Murphy, one of the most experienced Irish fullbacks of all time.
In the midfield, plenty of hype has been raised about the selection of Sonny Bill Williams, both in regard to his return to Australia (where he walked out on the league club Canterbury Bulldogs) and his first international rugby match.
Ironically, considering the Barbarians only criteria for selection is that a player must behave themselves on and off the field; one could argue that the Toulon centre is lucky to play for the Baa-baas.
His partnership with Seilala Mapusua will represent a hard running Islander combination for the Wallabies to contend with, with the London Irish and former Highlander midfielder renowned for his strong all round game.
At number ten, former Sale Shark Luke McAlister comes up against Matt Giteau, who would be regarded as currently the best standoff in world rugby.
Much interest will be on whether the former All Blacks game has improved, in a head to head that some say may be seen later in the Tri Nations.
Chris Whittaker, the most capped Waratah of all time and Heineken Cup winner, will play against Luke Burgess in a position where some believe the Wallabies have no dominant player. And to cause more issues for the Wallabies, the most capped All Black scrum half of all time Justin Marshall is waiting on the bench.
Should Whittaker be enticed back to Australia, being probably the best Australian halfback in the world?
In the loose forwards, the two Western Force rookies of Richard Brown and Matt Hodgson will combine with the brilliant George Smith to combat a truly outstanding group of back rowers.
In Rocky Elsom, Phil Waugh and Jerry Collins, as well as Serge Betson on the bench, you have four men that not only wield 228 tests between them, but all four would at their prime be considered as accomplished flankers as there has ever been for their respective countries.
In the locks, equal interest will be on Chris Jack, who has left Saracens and heads to Western Province for a brief stint, before resuming his New Zealand rugby career. Only 30 years old and with 67 tests to his name, no doubt he will be in the All Blacks radar for bolstering their lineout stocks.
Joined by Paul Tito, the inspirational Cardiff Blues and former NZ Maori captain, their presence will be enforced by England lock Martin Corry on the bench.
In the front row, former Springboks BJ Botha and Schalk Brits will combine with ex All Blacks Greg Somerville and Clarke Dermody, as well as former French hooker Sebastion Bruno.
This will be a historic first for the Barbarians, playing the Wallabies for the first time in Australia. On ten previous occasions they have played, the Baa-baas have tasted victory only three times; in 1948, 1958 and 1976.
Their last clash, on the 3rd December last year at Wembley Stadium, was won by the Wallabies. Chris Jack is the only player in the Barbarians match twenty two from the corresponding fixture.
Barbarians: 15 Geordan Murphy (Ireland) – 64 Tests, 14 Iain Balshaw (England) – 38 Tests, 13 Sonny Bill Williams (uncapped) – 0 Tests, 12 Seilala Mapusua (Samoa) – 9 Tests, 11 Josh Lewsey (England) – 58 Tests, 10 Luke McAlister (NZ) – 22 Tests, 9 Chris Whitaker (Australia) – 31 Tests, 8 Rocky Elsom (Australia) – 40 Tests, 7 Phil Waugh © (Australia) – 77 Tests, 6 Jerry Collins (NZ) – 48 Tests, 5 Paul Tito (NZ uncapped) – 0 Tests, 4 Chris Jack (NZ) – 67 Tests, 3 BJ Botha (South Africa) – 18 Tests, 2 Sebastien Bruno (France) – 20 Tests, 1 Clarke Dermody (NZ) – 3 Tests
Reserves:16 Schalk Brits (South Africa) – 3 Tests, 17 Greg Somerville (NZ) – 57 Tests, 18 Martin Corry (England) – 70 Tests, 19 Serge Betsen (France) – 63 Tests, 20 Justin Marshall (NZ) – 81 Tests, 21 Glen Jackson (NZ uncapped) – 0 Tests, 22 Ben Blair (NZ) – 6 Tests
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