The Wallabies may have been in disarray in recent weeks but they have an opportunity to get back on track in the opening game of their tour, without a lot of pressure.
New coach Michael Cheika will appreciate the chance to exorcise a few demons from the team and put players through their paces in a game that is not a test match.
Nor is the Wallabies’ opposition first rate.
Michael Cheika and friend – will exorcise a few demons
The Barbarians [Baas] usually play this game at the end of the autumn test matches, and cherry-pick many internationals involved in them, into the team. But this year the Baas’ fixture is before the autumn games, and no Barbarians, apart from the Argentines, are touring for their country.
Five unwanted ex-All Blacks have been chosen by Barbarians’ coach, John Kirwan.
Of them, Steve Luatua must have been unlucky to be overlooked by NZ (in favour of Victor Vito). Opensider Matt Todd has the excellent Sam Cane and some scrubber called Richie McCaw in front of him. Also, the versatile Colin Slade was thought to be a chance to tour with NZ, and Dan Carter excused.
Those three are top-notch players and will have to be watched by the Wallabies, as will the uncapped but slippery fullback Tim Nanai-Williams.
Ex-Springbok Heinrich Brüssouw, a type of openside flanker not admired by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, is in the reserves and so is 19-year-old loosehead prop Thomas (“The Tank”) du Toit of the Sharks. Watch out for this kid: he could be around for a long time.
Obviously Kirwan had no luck recruiting players from the English Premiership, Pro12 or Top 14. None of the Barbarians play for clubs in those competitions excepting skipper Alastair Kellock, who has played only two games for Glasgow this year.
I forgot one of the wingers. Some stand-up comedian called Nick Cummins will be as busy as a one-legged frog in a snake pit running up and down the field.
Nick Cummins with Baa-Baas cheer girls – more moves than Bobby Fischer
The Wallabies have chosen only five starters from the last test in Brisbane to run-on at Twickenham.
Reserves in Brisbane, Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander, prop up the scrum and James Horwill replaces Rob Simmons to start in the second row with Sam Carter.
Gritty Matt Hodgson has the honour of captaining the Wallabies and wearing the 7 jersey, whilst test skipper Michael Hooper is rested. Ben McCalman returns to the team as no. 8 and Scott Higginbotham moves to 6 replacing the injured Scott Fardy.
The new halves selection is “back to the future” as scrumhalf Will Genia passes the ball to the now-healthy flyhalf, Quade Cooper. How they perform individually, and as a pairing, will be the most absorbing aspect of this game for Aussie fans.
Will Genia v. Barbarians 2011 – back to the future
12 Matt To’omua and 13 Tevita Kurindrani resume the midfield combination they had before To’omua suffered concussion: Robbie Horne gets a run of the wing, and the other winger, Henry Speight, gets his first gig for the Wallabies although it won’t count as a cap.
The wonder is that Israel Folau will start at fullback. The player who is going to replace him on tour, should he be injured, should wear the 15 jersey in this “friendly”.
This game won’t address one of the main problems the Wallabies have had in their most recent games against the All Blacks and Springboks: lack of impact from the bench, but at least some of the test bench forwards will get some decent time on the field to bring them up to game speed.
James Horwill v Barbarians 2011 – starting with Carter
Wallabies by 20
1. B. Robinson, 2. S. Faingaa, 3. B. Alexander, 4. S. Carter, 5. J. Horwill, 6. S Higginbotham, 7. M. Hodgson (c), 8. B. McCalman,
9. W. Genia, 10. Q. Cooper, 11. R. Horne, 12. M To’omua, 13. T. Kuridrani, 14. H. Speight, 15. I. Folau.
Reserves: J. Hanson, J. Slipper, S. Kepu, W. Skelton, S. McMahon, N. White, B. Foley, C. Leali’ifano, J. Tomane (one to be omitted).
1. M Stevens (Natal Sharks / England), 2. J Parsons (Blues), 3. A Ta’avao (Blues), 4. D Bird (Crusaders / NZ), 5. A Kellock (Glasgow / Scotland) (c), 6. A Thomson (Canon Eagles / NZ), 7. M Todd (Crusaders / NZ), 8. S Luatua (Blues / NZ).
9. T Cubelli (Belgrano Ath / Argentina), 10. C Slade (Crusaders /NZ), 11 N Cummins (Coca Cola West Red Sparks / Australia), 12 F Saili (Blues / NZ), 13 J de Jongh (Stormers / South Africa), 14 F Halai (Blues / NZ), 15 T Nanai-Williams (Chiefs).
Reserves: 16. M Schwalger (Chiefs / Samoa), 17. T Du Toit (Sharks), 18. L Adriaanse (Sharks), 19. H Brussow (Cheetahs / South Africa), 20. M Alemanno (La Tablada / Argentina), 21. S Pretorius (Cheetahs), 22. J Tuculet (Argentina), 23. M Boshoff (Lions / South Africa).
Jaco Peyper – match referee
Date: Saturday, November 1 ( + 1 day AEDT)
Kick-off: 14:30 GMT (01:30 AEDT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Gregory Garner (England)
Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)
TV (Australia) – Fox Sports 2 – 01:15 AEST Sunday, November 2