A powerful combination boasting a combined 407 Test caps has been named to represent the Australian Barbarians club in Friday night’s rugby union international against the New Zealand-bound Canadian side at Skilled Park on the Gold Coast.
The Barbarians, who played two midweek matches against the touring England side last year returning a draw as well as a narrow loss, will be led by the most experienced current Wallaby, second-rower Nathan Sharpe.
Every member of the starting XV boasts Wallaby experience, with seven members of the recently named 30-man national squad included as the Qantas Wallabies continue with preparations for the Great Crusade across the Tasman.
Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says Friday night’s contest is an important stepping stone for all of the players involved, with five of the Baabaas starting line-up returning to the international fold after breaks forced by injury.
This includes the local product, Test prop James Slipper, who is one of two Gold Coasters in the run on combination, alongside the 96-cap international, Sharpe.
“This is a great opportunity to re-introduce these players to the international scene, while also allowing others to press their claims as back up to the 30-man squad that we have named,” Deans says.
“History suggests that we will sustain injuries during a schedule as demanding as that which we face in New Zealand. We have to have alternatives who are ready to go if that proves to be the case. Friday night allows a wider group of players, outside of the Test squad, to gain international exposure while also keeping them all connected to the overall campaign.”
The Baabaas, who go into camp at the Gold Coast on Wednesday, will be prepared by Qantas Wallabies coaching coordinator David Nucifora. He has no illusions as to the significance of the task his team faces.
“This is the Canadians last hit out before they head to New Zealand so they will be raring to go,” Nucifora said.
“They’ve had a lot of time together as a squad and have been building through their other warm up matches. As the finale to their preparations for New Zealand, they will have placed a great deal of emphasis on getting a good performance Friday night.
“It’s never easy bringing together a group with just a couple of days of prep, but all but two of the players in our squad have been involved in the national programme earlier in the year so they all have a good background as to how we operate.”
The two ‘newcomers’ are Waratahs flanker Pat McCutcheon, who has returned to action in Sydney club rugby after working his way back from injury, and the impressive Queensland Reds midfielder Ben Tapuai.
McCutcheon is familiar to the national team environment after involvement last year.
The 22-year-old Tapuai starred during his state’s run to a maiden Super Rugby title last month, helping to shut down the glamour Crusaders midfield of Sonny Bill Williams and Robbie Fruean during the Reds 18-13 win over the Kiwi side in the tournament final.
Canada, which is coached by a former All Black team-mate of Deans’ in the ex-New Zealand selector Kieran Crowley, is concluding preparations for a schedule across the Tasman which will see the side face the All Blacks, France, Tonga and Japan.
Friday night’s match follows the recent Qantas Wallabies training camp on the Gold Coast, and is a fore-runner to the inaugural Gold Coast Sevens – Fever Pitch tournament, which will be held on 25-26 November also at Skilled Park. The international event kicks off the IRB’s global HSBC World Series International Sevens, bringing the Australian leg of the popular circuit to south east Queensland for the first time.
The Australian Barbarians team to play Canada at Skilled Park on Friday night, (kick off 8.05pm AEST) is:
15. Lachie Turner (NSW Waratahs)
14. Rod Davies (Queensland Reds)
13. Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs)
12. Matt Giteau (Brumbies)
11. Drew Mitchell (NSW Waratahs)
10. Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs)
9. Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels)
8. Pat McCutcheon (NSW Waratahs)
7. Matt Hodgson (Western Force)
6. Dave Dennis (NSW Waratahs)
5. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force, captain)
4. Sitaleki Timani (NSW Waratahs)
3. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)
2. Tatafu Polota Nau (NSW Waratahs)
1. Ben Daley (Queensland Reds)
Run on Reserves:
16. James Hanson (Queensland Reds)
17. Pekahou Cowan (Western Force)
18. Dean Mumm (NSW Waratahs)
19. Beau Robinson (Queensland Reds)
20. Ben Tapuai (Queensland Reds)
21. Luke Morahan (Queensland Reds)
22. Mark Gerrard (Melbourne Rebels)