Nearly Christmas? It must be time for a Barbarians extravaganza at Twickenham. This year, they take on the Tri-Nations champions the Wallabies.
What an exciting Barbarians team. A beautiful mix of raw experience upfront with the second row pairing of Simon Shaw and Victor Matfield, coupled with the raw pace in the backs of Robbie Fruean, Isaia Toeava and Bryan Habana. Add to the pot the crowd-pleasers Danny Cipriani and Sam Tomkins, and you have a spectacle. The traditional Barbarians issues of getting to know your team-mates will undoubtedly have an effect, but it won’t matter. There’s enough talent on the field to make magic happen.
Interesting time now for the Wallabies. Tri-Nations champions but disappointed with their performance at the Rugby World Cup, now is the start of the re-building process ahead of 2015. Forgetting the old boy Nathan Sharpe, this is a very young Australia side. Quade Cooper’s absence due to injury is almost a blessing, as the Wallabies experiment for alternate, and more solid, options at outhalf.
What To Expect:
In the tradition of Barbarians matches, a fast and open encounter. Neither side should be looking to kick the points, why would you when you have the likes of Digby Ioane and Habana to set loose? It will come down to the game management of the two fly halves, Danny Cipriani and James O’Connor, but weather permitting this will be one for the crowd.
Head to Head: Danny Cipriani & James O’Connor
All of the fallout at the RFU this week has distracted the media away from Cipriani’s return to Twickenham. About to begin his second season in Melbourne, his claims this week that he has matured as a player will be examined with scrutiny. A precocious talent, Cipriani has been let down in the past by his defence. His teammate O’Connor however, is the whole package. He has the composure to land winning kicks, strong defence and serious gas. How he fares in the unfamiliar position of 10, will be fascinating.
All Eyes On: Sam Tomkins & David Pocock
The star name in the Barbarians side, Wigan & England full back Sam Tomkins has caused quite a stir with his involvement in this fixture. League fans are unimpressed, citing that despite recently signing a five-year extension with Wigan, Union’s money is luring him in. Regardless, Tomkins is an incredible attacking threat. How he fares will be worth the admission fee alone.
Wallaby captain for the day, Pocock cemented his reputation at the Rugby World Cup as one of the world’s best opensides. A menace at the breakdown, flirting with illegality at every ruck, Pocock is still a young man but with Richie McCaw now reaching the end of his career, Pocock will want to be known as the best openside in the world, starting tomorrow.
Last Fixture:Barbarians 7-55 Australia, Sydney Football Stadium, 6/6/09
Weather: Cloudy, no rain. 12 degrees.
Kick-Off: 14:35 (on Sky)
Would love this to end up being a 40/50 point game. Both teams have the firepower so it will come down to the platform, where you have to argue Australia have the edge given their experience of working with each other and the leadership in the lineout of Nathan Sharpe. Let’s hope for a thriller. Australia by 8.
by Ben Coles