After the release of the Wallabies end-of-year tour schedule, this writer and rugby lover thought it would be interesting to take a look at a possible Barbarians side that could face the Aussies later in the year.
The star-studded squad that will face England in June (see below) gives us an idea of the talent that will be at the disposal of the Baa Baas.
With a host of international stars choosing to take up Top 14 and Avia premiership deals, the Barbarians could end up looking more like a World XV than a group of exiled players.
Former Wallaby stalwarts Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and exiled star James O’Connor will be looking to prove to the ARU they still have what it takes to compete at the elite level. More importantly, James O’Connor will be hoping Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie likes what he sees and picks him for Rugby World Cup duty in 2015.
With nearly twelve months out of Super Rugby and eight months since the infamous incident at Perth airport, he will be looking to make up for lost time. O’Connor is yet to sign with a Super Rugby franchise for 2015 season, but rumours suggest he will sign with either the under performing Reds or the resurgent Western Force.
O’Connor will be looking to perform well on the international stage and with French club Toulon. If he does so, it will increase his popularity with Super Rugby franchises and give him greater control of contract negotiations.
Fellow Aussies Mitchell and Giteau will be looking for some bittersweet revenge on their former employees who both had their potential Super Rugby and Wallaby careers cut short through either form, injuries, age or wage demands.
Giteau has been in scintillating form with French club Toulon, including winning the Heineken Cup last year in an exciting encounter against fellow French club Clermont. Mitchell last year joined his former Wallaby mate Giteau at Toulon and has been enjoying life in southern France.
There are be several other Wallabies and Australian Super Rugby players playing abroad. These players include: Digby Ioane (Stade Français), Ben Mowen, Leroy Houstan, Hugh Pyle, Sitaleki Timani, Dan Palmer and many more that I have probably forgotten.
With so much talent off shore, the Wallabies in recent years have suffered due to the large wages on offer in France, the United Kingdom and Japan. This makes it a good opportunity for current Wallabies to prove to their expat brothers that they have earned the jersey through form and not through default.
My challenge to the readers is to make a XV Barbarians team and guess the score against the current Wallabies side.
Barbarians selected to take on England: James O’Connor (London Irish, Australia), Drew Mitchell (Toulon, Australia), Hosea Gear (Toulouse, New Zealand), Sitiveni Sivivatu (Clermont, New Zealand), Aurélien Rougerie (Clermont, France), Rene Ranger (Montpelier, France), Matt Giteau (Toulon, Australia), Francois Trinh Duc (Montpelier, France), Jimmy Cowan (Gloucester, New Zealand), Steffon Armitage (Toulon, England), Julien Bonnaire (Clermont, France), Ali Williams (Toulon, New Zealand), Carl Hayman (Toulon, New Zealand), John Afoa (Ulster, New Zealand).