Never has a game of rugby been more of a dress rehearsal for higher representative honours that this one. On both sides of the ledger there are players who have reason to go at the game with all the fury that only the motivation of being left out in the cold can bring.
The Baa-Baa’s warmed up last week by dispatching a second string England and, despite traveling to the other side of the globe within a week, are certainly talking the talk of a team that wants to disgrace their second nation within seven days.
What strikes you most about this Barbarians team is the amount of players who are at the top of their games and looking to make their way back into the fold of their respective nations’ teams.
The nostalgia surrounding the Baa-Baas suggests their mantra is to run the ball and try the sexy stuff that might not win games, but give supporters plenty to oh-and-ah about. All that changed late last year when the Bokkie laden Baa-Baa’s challenged an under-maned Wallabies team physically, and demanded a response from them that was more akin to a test match than a festival.
This Baa-Baa team has much the same look about it. The back-row itself is one that most nations would gladly swap for their own, and when you add to this the brutal backline combo of Josh Lewsey, Seilala Mapasua, and Sonny Bro’ – well you get the idea.
That’s not to say that the Baa-Baa’s vintage 2009 will be one trick ponies. The likes of Whits, Luke McAlister and Geordan Murphy will provide plenty of creativity and nous that will get the visitors into positions where they can launch their uncompromising outside men and do plenty of damage.
For the Wallabies, this game will be about establishing a standard that will launch them into the rest of the domestic tests and on to the Tri-nations. Clearly the Wallabies are not fucking around with this game and have named a team that is based on form and not too far off full-strength.
With Deans putting the cleaners through some established names, and giving others a chance to shine against quality opponents, there will be no lack of motivation from the home side.
To think that a Phil Waugh captained side would be anything but up for the contest would be folly and the Wallabies must meet this challenge and show they are not made of custard when it comes to the hard stuff.
The Wallabies will look to the likes of Dick Brown, Matt Hodgson and Big Kev to repel the threat posed by the Baa-Baa’s pack and it will be interesting to see if George Smith can put his chip-kick-flick-passing-ways of the Super 14 behind him and concentrate purely on winning the ruck contest.
The Wallabies should win this game quite comfortably, given the dormant nature of early season Wallaby games, this cannot be guaranteed.
Cote says – Wallabies by 12