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Ulster coach Les Kiss: Barbarians' Belfast visit can boost World Cup bid

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss has said hosting the Barbarians versus Fiji in the Kingspan Stadium next month is another opportunity to show the province is ready for the big occasions should Ireland's bid for the 2023 World Cup be successful.

Ireland are one of three unions in the running to host the global showpiece - South Africa and France are also hoping to land the tournament - with the Kingspan Stadium and a re-developed Casement Park included in a list of possible venues.

With the Barbarians coming to Belfast on November 11, and the final of the Women's Rugby World Cup at the Kingspan next summer, Kiss hopes that Ulster fans show an appetite for such marquee events.

"There's bigger fish to fry for us as an island in terms of getting more big honours over here," Kiss said. "The Barbarians coming here to Ulster, the Women's Rugby World Cup too, it's a chance to showcase ourselves in terms of running an event.

"We know we're very good at it. People come here on a weekly basis and see it, but it's great to have the chance to show the world what we can do."

It was revealed yesterday that Ulstermen Ruan Pienaar and Dan Tuohy will be part of the invitational side when Fiji visit with Kiss saying it is an honour for both players and province.

"For Ulster to host this game is a great honour," he added. "Both teams playing here is a fantastic opportunity to show the best of Ulster. We have a great supporter base here and to put on a game of this ilk, and have two of our legends here to play, is fantastic.

"I'm sure the people here will come out and support it."

Pienaar has three Barbarians appearances to his name already, including against Ireland last year, but admitted the chance to run out for the side at his home ground, in what will be his last season at Ulster, was an opportunity too good to turn down.

"When I heard that there's a game here, I was really keen to get involved," said the 88-times capped Springbok. "When Les came and asked if I was keen I immediately said yes. It's an honour to play for the Barbarians and it's even more special on our home pitch.

"I think it's going to be great and the people will come out in numbers. Fiji are a great team too, and we've seen what they can do on the Sevens circuit too.

"Their players are throughout the top leagues in the world and they're top, top players. It'll be a tough one, but it'll be a great game to watch."

The 32-year-old added that he is looking forward to expressing himself in the Barbarians' inimitable style.

"I think it's a game where we can try some things and know there's not too much pressure on you or the team. I think it's nice to go and enjoy it. There's normally not a lot of kicking involved and it's nice to go out and try things from everywhere.

"Last time I played with George Smith and he's an incredible player. He's someone who just trains so hard. He was happy to enjoy himself but he still wanted to perform well.

"I think most people can remember Joe Rokocoko and what he did that day. He did some things with a rugby ball that I've never seen before."

Belfast Telegraph


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