The Wallabies will open their 2009 season with an historic match against an international Barbarians side at the Sydney Football Stadium. The Australian Rugby Union are promising “some of the biggest names in the game” will be part of the first Barbarians side to play on Australian soil.
The Wallabies’ first game at the SFS in eight years will open their 2009 campaign on June 6, a week before the first Test against Italy in Canberra.
Australia have not played at the SFS since a 41-29 victory over the New Zealand Maori in 2001.
The one-off match will also be the first in the 60-year history of the Wallabies and Barbarians to be played in Australia.
Barbarians matches have traditionally been scheduled as tour finales for Wallaby tours to Europe, with nine games played between 1948 and 2001 before the concept was revived during this year’s Spring toure.
The Wallabies won that Wembley Stadium clash against a star-studded line-up 18-11 earlier this month.
“The success of that match hardened our resolve to finalise discussions with the Barbarians about them coming to Australia for the first time,” ARU boss John O’Neill said in a statement.
“Those negotiations also ensure us a Barbarians side of real quality, one that will help deliver a new experience to Australian sporting fans, and at a ground where our national team has not played for almost a decade.
“We’re very excited by this Barbarians venture. So too are the Barbarians.
“In terms of their playing personnel, the possibilities for the Barbarians are enticing.
“Without going into specifics, we’re confident this Barbarians team will have show-stopping appeal.
“The British and Irish Lions will be on tour to South Africa, but there are high profile All Blacks and Springboks, current members of the World Cup semi-finalists Argentina, and some very well-known Australian players tied to overseas clubs at present.
“The Pacific Islands have a number of players based in Europe who thrilled a global audience at last year’s Rugby World Cup.
“There is also a chance a number of extremely recognisable British and French players will be available.”
Australia will be the 22nd country in which the Barbarians have played matches.
“We have had a long-standing relationship with the Australian Rugby Union and, after hosting 10 games over a period of 60 years at iconic venues like Cardiff Arms Park, the Millennium Stadium, Twickenham and, earlier this month, the new Wembley Stadium, we now look forward to coming to Sydney to sample Australian hospitality and play some Barbarian-style rugby,” club president Micky Steele-Bodger said.
Australia have won their last six matches against the Barbarians, and seven of the 10 games played.