Planet Rugby

Preview: Barbarians v Australia

25th November 2011 06:52

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graham henry

At it again: RWC-winning coach Graham Henry guides the Baa-Baas

Twickenham is the place to be on Saturday when the Barbarians host Australia in what should be an entertaining clash for the Killik Cup.

The Baa-baas have a star-studded line-up including numerous internationals who were in action at the recent World Cup in New Zealand.

Among them are four members of the All Blacks' World Cup-winning squad - Keven Mealamu, Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson and Isaia Toea, who were all included in the Baa-baas' starting XV.

Another world champion Richard Kahui will be among the replacements while the famous touring club will be managed by recently departed All Blacks coach Graham Henry and his longtime assistant Steve Hansen.

The biggest talking point in the build-up to the match has been the selection of highly-rated England rugby league international Sam Tomkins, who will make a one-off appearance in rugby union for the Barbarians.

Tomkins' selection along with that of New Zealander Robbie Fruean is part of a Barbarians tradition of always selecting at least one player who has not played at Test level yet.

The match will also be a significant occassion for Springbok legend Victor Matfield, who is retiring after the match. The 34-year-old lineout ace and 2007 World Cup winner will captain the Baa-baas in his final match, an honour which Hansen believes is befitting of his stature in the game.

"He's a legend in the game - 110 tests for South Africa, four caps for the Barbarians," he said.

"He is a wonderful player and you can see why when you get up close. It's been a pleasure to work with him so far," added Hansen.

Although the Barbarians style of play places an emphasis on entertainment and not the end result, they have beaten the All Blacks and the Springboks in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is aware of that and will not be taking the Baa-baas lightly.

"Their results against New Zealand and South Africa have shown what is possible, and what they can bring to the occasion," said Deans.

"They've got class players all over the field who will play without fear or inhibition. That is going to make them a very tough outfit to beat," he added.

Players to watch:

For Barbarians: Rugby league sensation Sam Tomkins' performance will be closely monitored by his supporters and detractors. Tomkins, who plays for Wigan Warriors in the 13-man code, is an explosive player and great entertainer, who scored five tries on his senior debut for Wigan in 2008. If his inside backs can create space for him to run, the Wallabies' defence will surely be tested.

For Australia: The performance of new fly-half James O'Connor will be closely scrutinised as it will be his first in the number 10 jersey at international level. O'Connor is one of the most exciting players in the game and he has already proved himself as an accomplished pivot during his time at the Western Force. The match against the Baa-baas will give him an opportunity to prove himself on the international stage.

Head-to-head: Jerome Kaino proved at the World Cup that he is currently the best blindside flanker in the world while Scott Higginbotham is keen to show that he should at least be the first-choice for that position in the Wallabies' starting XV. Both players are as hard as nails who never take a backward step to their opponents. However, something's got to give when they clash on Saturday.

Previous results:
2009: Australia won 55-7, Sydney
2008: Australia won 18-11, London
2001: Australia won 49-35, Cardiff
1996: Australia 39-12, London
1992: Australia won 30-20, Cardiff

Prediction: Barbarians matches are traditionally entertaining matches and don't expect this one to be different. Altohugh the men in black and white hoops have a star-studded line-up Australia should be triumphant as they are a more settled side. Australia by between six points!

The teams:

Barbarians: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Sam Tomkins, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Stirling Mortlock, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Mauro Bergamasco, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Sylvain Marconnet, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Eusebio Guinazu.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Salvatore Perugini, 18 Jason White, 19 Marco Bortolami, 20 Nemia Kenatale, 21 Richard Kahui, 22 Seru Rabeni.

Australia (revised): 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Ioane Digby, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Dave Dennis, 7 David Pocock (captain), 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 James Horwill, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Matt Hodgson, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Ben Tapuai

Date: Saturday, November 26
Kick-off: 14:35
Venue: Twickenham
Referee: Romain Poite
Assistant referees: Andrew Small, Stuart Terheege
Television match official: Graham Hughes