Spirit happy to release players for Baabaas

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Perth Spirit won’t be stopping any of their players from featuring in the Barbarians team to face the Wallabies in Sydney.

The Spirit plays its final NRC round match against competition leaders Queensland Country on Sunday October 29, a day after the Baabaas take on Australia at Allianz Stadium.

Barbarians coach Alan Jones on Wednesday announced overlooked flyhalf Quade Cooper would be his captain in the clash and promised to add plenty of Force players, in a sign of solidarity for the team after its Super Rugby axing.

The side looks likely to be dominated by Australians, given the timing and geography of the match rules many Northern Hemisphere players out.

That could create the chance for a handful of fringe players to grab the attention of the Wallabies staff as well.

Though that final NRC fixture may end up deciding the Spirit’s fate in the 2017 NRC, with the top end of the ladder hard to separate, Perth coach Kevin Foote said he would have no issue releasing players to feature in the clash

“(Assistant coach) Shaun Berne said he might bring his boots along that weekend,” he joked.

“We knew that would happen - Alan has been quite public about that.

“For players to play for the Baabaas and against Australia - you don’t have that chance very often.

“We’ve got a very tough assignment against Queensland Country, who have been going really well, but it is what it is.

“If we need to take 15 new club guys away, we will. I certainly don’t oppose (releasing players) at all.”

Perth has already had to deal with the loss of a key player, with flyhalf Jono Lance taking up a short-term deal with UK club Worcester.

Lance’s NRC form last year put him in the Test mix, before a broken arm playing for the Wallaby XV cruelly ended his chance.

Foote said that was a positive from his view, though it hurt the Spirit’s on-field lineup.

“He’s a good player and he’s been knocking on that Australian door, so it’ll be good for him to experience the world grow up a little,” he said.

“It’s a really good opportunity to travel, see the world and the Premiership is pretty tough competition.

“It doesn’t help our campaign but I’m not opposed to it at all.”

The Spirit have a bye this week before facing off against NSW Country Eagles in Tamworth, in what will be a rematch of last year’s grand final.

The Barbarians take on the Wallabies in Sydney on October 28, kicking off at 3pm AEDT.  Buy tickets here.