Irish players frozen out of Baa-Baas clash
Irish involvement in today’s Barbarians v South Africa showpiece at Twickenham is minimal.
The Baa-Baas’ medic since 1992, Rathfriland’s Dr Donal O’Shaughnessy, and their team mascot, Rory Shannon — both members of Banbridge RFC — are Ireland’s sole representatives.
A third more tenuous link is that former Ulster coach Alan Solomons is Nick Mallett’s assistant.
The Barbarians had hoped to give Munster and Ireland lock Paul O’Connell a 20-30 minute cameo as part of his recuperation but they got nowhere with that request. He is on the bench tonight for Munster’s Magners League joust with Cardiff Blues, as is tighthead John Hayes, another about whom they inquired.
The IRFU — with whom the Babas co-operated fully by agreeing to a request to play Ireland at Thomond Park last June — felt unable to help.
Ireland are not alone in failing to provide players; neither England nor Scotland will have any on-field representatives either, leaving Wales flanker Martyn Williams the only player from the Home Countries in today’s starting line-up.
Williams is joined by Wales and Cardiff Blues team-mate John Yapp, the replacement prop.
Other than that the team is made up of Italian and southern hemisphere players led by Australia’s Matt Giteau. The make-up of today’s 22-man squad is 10 New Zealanders, five Austalians, three Italians, two Welshmen, one South African and a Fijian.
Uncapped South African lock Anton van Zyl lines up against the Springboks while New Zealander Colin Bourke, the Barbarians’ No 8, is the only other player without international experience.
It’s all a very far cry from January 1973 and Cliff Morgan’s never-to-be-forgotten commentary of the Babas versus the All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park and the greatest try ever seen.
Old enough to remember this?
“Kirkpatrick to Williams. This is great stuff. Phil Bennett covering chased by Alistair Scown. Brilliant, oh, that's brilliant!
“John Williams, Bryan Williams. (John) Pullin. John Dawes, great dummy. To David, Tom David, the half-way line. Brilliant by (Derek) Quinnell! This is Gareth Edwards! A dramatic surge! What a score!”
Fond memories of good times.
Barbarians: James O'Connor (Aus); Joe Rococoko (NZ), Drew Mitchell (Aus), Adam Ashley-Cooper (Aus), Ma'a Nonu (NZ); Matt Giteau (Aus, capt), Will Genia (Aus); Salvatore Perugini (It), Stephen Moore (Aus), Neemia Tialata (NZ), Anton van Zyl (Stormers), Chris Jack (NZ), Rodney So'oialo (NZ), Martyn Williams (Wales), Colin Bourke (Chiefs). Replacements: Keven Mealamu (NZ), John Yapp (Wales), Quintin Geldenhuys (It), Daniel Braid (NZ), Andy Ellis (NZ), Stephen Donald (NZ), Seru Rabeni (Fiji).
Meanwhile today’s All-Ireland League programme has been completely wiped out.