The Australian Barbarians side will be taking on the Canadian national team tonight on the Gold Coast. Join us before the 7:30pm AEST kickoff for live scores and blog of the match featuring a number of fringe Wallabies hoping to impress – and a rare chance to see the Canadians play rugby.
This is a last-chance saloon for a few Australian players to prove themselves before the Rugby World Cup is underway.
Berrick Barnes will want to prove he is up to the task of running the show at 10 to prove himself a worthy back up to Quade Cooper.
He won’t necessarily be expected to produce the same off the cuff attack, but will be hoping he guides the team well, makes space for his backline and gives them chances in space to show their wares.
Rob Horne has been earmarked for big things and will be out to prove himself on a bigger stage after spending the majority of the last two years on the sideline without a chance to prove his backers.
James Slipper, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Drew Mitchell – all returning from injury lay-offs – will be eager to get through the match unscathed.
Robbie Deans, and Wallabies supporters are well aware of what these men offer the national side, the real issue is the fitness of the trio.
A running Mitchell on the wing for the Wallabies makes the side far more balanced; Slipper has been one of the in-form and most promising props in Australia over the last 24 months while Polota-Nau is a human wrecking ball.
A solid 60+ minutes is on the agenda for all of them before they are put back in the cotton wool.
With Matt Giteau pulling out through injury, Nick Phipps is another interesting player to watch because he is arguably the most improved player in the country this year.
At the world cup – barring injury – he isn’t likely to see many playing minutes in meaningful situations.
However with Luke Burgess leaving for France after the Cup, Phipps will be eyeing off every chance to solidify his standing as the next in line to deputise for Will Genia in the future.
One thing that might make his life a little difficult is the selection of the back row.
Pat McCutcheon, Matt Hodgson and Dave Dennis are hardly the type of players to physically dominate the play for long periods.
No one has doubted Phipps skills this year but his decisions under pressure haven’t always been able to match that talent.
This is Canada, but Phipps may find himself under pressure clearing slow or loose ball on occasion. It will be up to Polota-Nau, Sitaleki Timani and Nathan Sharpe to provide a bit of the grunt and enforcement both with the ball in hand and in the ruck.