This Sunday, they kick off their first international match of 2014 at Twickenham against a young England squad: a match perhaps overshadowed by the Aviva Premiership Final on Saturday. As such, many of you may be wondering: Who are the Barbarians?
The Barbarians are an invitational rugby union team based in Britain but constituted of players from across the globe, specifically chosen due to their high rugby standard and behaviour both on and off the field. Traditionally the Barbarians wear their famous black and white whilst retaining the socks of their home club. The team has a rich history, being part of a number of traditional matches such as the Remembrance Day Match and some of the greatest names in rugby history have played for the Barbarians. Such figures as Jona Lomu, Jeremy Guscott, Francois Pienaar and Jason Leonard are all listed in the Barbarians Roll of Honour. They sit alongside Phil Bennett and Gareth Edwards who started and finished, respectively, the play simply known as ‘That Try’ in 1973.
This year’s Barbians team features some similarly famous rugby names from New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa and even Georgia, but here are a couple of match-ups to watch come Sunday.
Joe Rokocoko and Semesa Rokoduguni
Rokocoko usually plays on the left wing and if he lines up there for the Barbarians on Sunday, look out for a great match-up between him and Semesa Rokoduguni. At 6’2″ and 17 stone, Rokocoko combines speed and strength. A former New Zealand international, Rokocoko is 9th on the international top try scorers list, scoring a staggering 47 tries in only 68 matches. He is widely regarded as one of the best wingers ever. Like Rokocoko, Rokoduguni is an excellent finisher. The member of the Royal Dragoons has had a break-out last two years. He’s gone from scoring 3 tries at Twickenham against the Navy to playing a key role as an impact player at Bath Rugby.
Rokocoko will no doubt try to use his size advantage over his opposite man but Rokoduguni will not give easily. The member of the British Army will be seeking to prove to the English coaches that he is more than a match for the best. Both players have the potential to produce electrifying performances and the winner of this match-up could have a big impact on the outcome of the game.
Brock James and Henry Slade
Although Brock James has never been capped by Australia he is still one of the premier fly halves in rugby. An exceptional club career for Clermont has seen Brock score 2228 points, as of April 2014, including achieving a monumental 41 successive place kicks without a miss in 2009. In comparison Jonny Wilkinson scored 1938 points in his 12 years at Newcastle. Slade is another exceptional kicker who has achieved a rapid rise through the ranks of English rugby. Despite this being his first cap, he has been chosen as the vice captain of the squad and he has no lack of experience, representing the England U18s, U20s, Saxons: he previously won the IRB Junior World Championships with the U20s. After helping Exeter lift the LV Trophy, Slade will be looking to show Lancaster he is ready to take the next step and join the team in New Zealand.
Both fly halves will be seeking to control the tempo of the game and their kicking games will have to be on top form to help produce a victory for their respective teams. Many games often come down to missed penalty kicks and Sunday’s match between the Barbarians and England may be no different.
Sunday will see what should be a thrilling match at Twickenham: the Barbarians show off some of the world’s best individual rugby talent and Stuart Lancaster’s young England team will look to show their excellence on a world stage.
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