When William Percy Carpmael brought to life the concept of the Barbarians club almost a century ago, he would never have envisaged the commercial enterprise it has become.
Rugby 365 reports that when the BaaBaas host Australia at the Wembley Stadium on Wednesday, the game will be a far cry from the social affair it was when the Carpmael dream became reality on December 27, 1890, at Friary Field, Hartlepool.
Now, with massive sponsorships the team has taken on a far more global feel than the ‘local’ outfit that played with flair, courage, spirit and passion back then.
Commercial issues aside – and they are being paid large sums for the “privilege” of an invitation – the modern players and coaches still relish the opportunity of appearing in the famous black-and-white-hooped jersey.
Barbarians coach Jake White believes that players who, like him, are new to being involved with Rugby Union’s most famous invitational side relish playing Australia.
All Black captain Richie McCaw, fresh from leading New Zealand to a grand slam with last Saturday’s 32-6 win over England at Twickenham, will make his first appearance for the BaaBaas alongside current and former Test teammates Joe Rokocoko, Rico Gear and Jerry Collins.
The World Cup-winning South Africa coach, White, has included several of the team he helped guide to World Cup glory last year, including victorious captain John Smit, who will skipper the Barbarians.
Also in the line-up are Smit’s fellow World Cup-winners Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger, Bakkies Botha and Johann Muller.
On the bench are Australia’s World Cup-winning scrumhalf George Gregan – officially retired from international rugby – and dashing Wales wing Shane Williams, recently chosen as the International Rugby Board Player of the Year.
“The important thing is that a number of these players haven’t played for the BaaBaas – players like Richie [McCaw], Bakkies Botha, Jean de Villiers and John Smit – and I think it is wonderful they get the opportunity to play alongside such wonderful players,” said White.
“A guy like Sean Fitzpatrick was a great captain of New Zealand, but never got the chance to play for the Barbarians and I am sure he would have loved to play in a team like this.”
White and Australian assistant Eddie Jones, who played a backroom role in the Springboks’ World Cup triumph, have also upheld a Barbarians tradition by selecting Western Province back row forward Nick Koster as the uncapped player.
The match has been organised as part of the British Olympic Association’s celebrations of the centenary of the first Olympics in London, where the Games will return in four years’ time.
Players to watch:
For the Barbarians: Such is the nature of this BaaBaas outfit that each of the 22 players is an entertainer in his own right. However, South Africa’s first – and only – centurion Percy Montgomery will appear on the world stage for the last time, having also retired from Test rugby. But if it is excitement you want – and that is what this game is all about – you will look at players like Joe Rokocoko, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana and Francois Steyn. Up front the inclusion of players like Richie McCaw, Schalk Burger, Jerry Collins, Bakkies Botha and John Smit (as captain), will ensure the pack has plenty of grunt and guile.
For Australia: There is no doubt the spotlight will shine very brightly on teenage sensation James O’Connor, as he makes his first start in a Wallaby jersey, at fullback. Not yet 19 and less than a year after leaving school, he is touted as one of Australia’s brightest prospects. By the nature of this Wallaby team other youngsters like Quade Cooper, Brett Sheehan and, if he comes off the bench, Peter Kimlin will be watched closely to see how they shape up against one of the most powerful BaaBaas teams assembled in a very long time.
Head to head: It is a classic case of the ‘old versus the new’ – the BaaBaas’ veteran fullback Percy Montgomery (at age 34) against the Wallabies’ 18-year-old No.15 James O’Connor. It is an exciting prospect. The one has youthful exuberance and pace aplenty. The other has the experience of 100 internationals. He may not be as quick, but he knows the shortcuts. At flyhalf there’s an intriguing battle between two exciting youngsters – South African Francois Steyn (BaaBaas) against Australian Quade Cooper. Both are off-the-cuff players, who are prone to shocking errors, but equally capable of amazing feats and moments of brilliance.
Prediction: It would be unfair to predict a winner, as this game is not about winning or losing – although nobody ever plays to loose. However, we can comfortable predict that there will be lots of excitement, as both coaches have given their team license to entertain.
1948: The Barbarians won 9-6, Cardiff
1958: The Barbarians won 11-6, Cardiff
1967: Australia won 17-11, Cardiff
1976: The Barbarians won 19-7, Cardiff
1984: Australia won 37-30, Cardiff
1988: Australia won 40-22, Cardiff
1992: Australia won 30-20, London
1996: Australia won 39-12, London
2001: Australia won 49-35, Cardiff
Barbarians: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Rico Gear, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Francois Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Census Johnson, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Federico Pucciariello.
Replacements: 16 Mark Regan, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Nick Koster, 20 George Gregan, 21 Ollie Smith, 22 Shane Williams.
Australia: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Lote Tuqiri, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 11. Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Richard Brown, 7 George Smith, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Hugh McMeniman, 4 Mark Chisholm, 3 Matt Dunning, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Sekope Kepu
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Peter Kimlin, 19 David Pocock, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Lachie Turner, 22 Drew Mitchell
Date: Wednesday, December 3
Venue: Wembley Stadium London
Kick-off: 19.45 (19.45 GMT)
Weather: It is a night game, but the prospect of rain is small. It will be cold, with a high of 2°C and a low of -3°C
Referee: Chris White (England)
Touch judges: Wayne Barnes (England), Steve Terheege (England)
TMO: Geoff Warren (England)