Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Mason relishing Barbarians chance

Willie Mason

Willie Mason has welcomed the chance to step outside his comfort zone when he makes his rugby union debut for the Barbarians against England on Sunday.

Mason has been named on the bench as a replacement centre for the showdown at Twickenham in what will be his first appearance since switching codes. The colourful 31-year-old, who played 24 times for Australia between 2002-08, has been lured to union by big-spending French club Toulon.

A clash with England's second string is hardly the kindest of reintroduction to a game that he last played at school 14 years ago, but Mason is undaunted by the prospect, and he said: "I haven't been this excited about a game for a while. I'm way out of my comfort zone. I have thrown myself in at the deep end and I just can't wait to get out there and do it."

He added: "I've played in plenty of big games before, it's not like I'm someone who doesn't know how to catch a ball, run, or tackle, which are the basics of rugby.

"Obviously I'm not going to go into the game thinking I'm going to get man of the match or anything, but I've got high expectations of myself as a player and a competitor.

"I'm not going go out there and be bullied around. I'll hold my own regardless if I'm playing a national side like England, which I have full respect for. But I am a competitor myself.

"It's a pretty big debut - against England at Twickenham, which is normally the highlight of your rugby career for many people."

Mason has a chequered disciplinary history and was voted the National Rugby League's most hated player by a fans' poll in 2007.

His reputation also suffered at Hull KR, who last weekend released the controversial signing just six months into his three-year contract.

Patchy form in his six appearances for the club, the revelation he met officials from Toulon without permission and passport issues resulted in his acrimonious departure.

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