Preview: Barbarians v Australia

Date published: October 31 2014

The Wallabies kick of their end-of-year tour when they face the Barbarians in their Killik Cup clash at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Wallabies kick of their end-of-year tour when they face the Barbarians in their Killik Cup clash at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Barbarians are renowned for their entertaining style of play and this match would normally be seen as an ideal tour opener for any Test side.

However, Australia’s national team has gone through one of its most controversial periods in recent years and there will be extra pressure on them to do well.

The recent scandal involving star back Kurtley Beale has led to Ewen McKenzie’s resignation as coach and there are several players who will use this match to impress McKenzie’s successor Michael Cheika.

The game should be a great spectacle as the new Wallabies boss won the Super Rugby title with the Waratahs earlier this year thanks to an expansive game-plan.

Cheika has made his intentions clear by picking several of Australian rugby’s most exciting players and the Twickenham faithful will be relsihing the prospect of seeing the likes of Israel Folau, Quade Cooper Henry Speight and Will Genia going head-to-head against the Barbarians who also boast players like Tim Nanai-Williams, Juan de Jongh, Colin Slade and Wallaby cult figure Nick Cummins, who all have the ability to get spectators out of their seats.

Cheika said his team was looking forward to the opportunity on Saturday.

“We’ve worked really hard this week on ensuring our team has a clear understanding of how we want to play, next is to transfer this into the game on Saturday,” he explained.

“You sense they’re all looking forward to the opportunity against the Barbarians, and so far I’ve been impressed with the level of consistency they’ve brought to their work.

“This team contains a mix of players from our last game and also experienced players eager to push their way into the Test team. We’re all looking forward to playing our first game for Australia on this tour.”

With players like De Jongh and Slade – who were overlooked for the Springboks and All Blacks respective squads – Barbarians boss Sir John Kirwan believes his side will not be lacking any motivation.

“We’ve got a few guys that missed out on their respective tours, and they are definitely in the mix,” said Kirwan.

“We’re only a year away from a World Cup, so a lot of them are very motivated to put their hand up for international selection. That energy has driven things this week.”

Another player omitted from a Test squad is Glasgow lock Alastair Kellock who will captain the the famous invitational team this weekend.

“You grow up watching these matches and to be invited to be part of it is a big honour,” said Kellock.

“It’s something so many fantastic players have done before and when (Barbarians coach) John Kirwan asked me to be the skipper, that has just added to the privilege.”

Speaking about Kellock’s appointment as captain, Kirwan said: “Yes, Al has a point to prove, and he’s not alone in that.

“Alastair has the right experience for our captain, and I needed someone to take control of the forwards. He’s highly motivated and he was the ideal choice and he’s been excellent, so I’m really happy.”

Players to watch:

For Barbarians: All eyes will be on the Honey Badger Nick Cummins who is taking on his countrymen and former team-mates. Cummins might be one of the game’s characters but he wasn’t the Wallabies’ first-choice left wing for nothing before opting to further his career in Japan at the end of the Super Rugby campaign. A deadly finisher, Cummins will be determined to put one over his former team-mates.

For Australia: While the Wallabies have several game-breakers, keep an eye on the half-back pairing of Will Genia and Quade Cooper. Both have battled with injuries this year and are playing together for their country for the first time in 2014. When on song, they can unlock the tightest defences and while they might not be at their best yet, they will keep the Baa-baas defenders busy.

Head-to-head: Brumbies midfielder Tevita Kuridrani has made the Wallabies number 13 jersey his own after several superb performances at Test level in 2014. One of those Tests was against the Springboks at Newlands in the Rugby Championship where, despite finishing on the losing side, he outshone the incumbent Bok centres Jean de Villiers and Jan Serfontein. Baa-baas number 13 Juan de Jongh will be highly motivated as his services is deemed surplus to requirements by Bok coach Heyneke Meyer. A good display by De Jongh could make Meyer sit up and take notice of him again.

Previous results:
2011: Australia won 60-11, London
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: Like most Barbarians games, this should be an entertaining spectacle and a high-scoring affair. Australia will have too much firepower though and will win by 16 points!

The teams:

Barbarians: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Tom