Wycliff Palu isn’t expecting an easy reunion at Allianz Stadium this weekend, called into the Barbarians squad to face the Wallabies.
Palu is in Japan with the Toyota Verblitz this season, but isn’t a registered foreign player, in the squad as a standby, after opting to continue his career for a second season in Japan.
He had a chance to play for the Barbarians last year but wasn’t granted a release.
This time around, Palu was called into the squad to replace his former NSW teammate Jacques Potgieter.
The 35-year-old hasn’t played in close to 10 months and was hoping that he might have an easier introduction back into rugby at Allianz Stadium.
When he saw the squad, though, he knew this would be no cruisy return to Sydney.
“I was hoping I was going to play not a very good side on Saturday but the squad they picked (is very good),” he said.
“I’m like 35 year-old coming from Japan, I haven’t played for 10 months.
“That’s what I reckon they’ve built over the year is their depth.
“You could throw a number of guys in the starting side now and they’ll do the job.Obviously Ned Hanigan and guys like that - even Sean McMahon, playing eight, Karmichael Hunt had a good start to the season in the June Tests and he’s back again.
Palu watched Ned Hanigan and Jack Dempsey, who will start in the back row for Australia work their way up the ranks and the no. 8 said the pair had made their own stamp on the Test lineup.
“The good thing is they’ve brought their own strengths to it, they’ve brought the way they play,” he said.
“That’s probably the best thing about it.
“Jack and Ned are not trying to be anyone else that’s worn the jersey before, they just bring their own style to it and they’re obviously different players but there’s a strength to both of their games and that’s the main thing.”
There’s another young no. 8 Palu is looking forward to seeing up close on the weekend, playing alongside barnstorming FIjian Isi Naisarani, who has signed with the Brumbies for 2018.
Palu watched the 22-year-old tear up the NRC in 2016 for Brisbane City, before going on to win the Nathan Sharpe Medal as the Force’s best player in his debut Super Rugby season.
The experience of being in an Alan Jones camp has also ticked off a special rugby experience for Palu and, he imagines, for many of his new teammates.
“He wants to play a game a certain way and that’s all he taught us and I think all the guys here are going to be honoured to say at the end of the day they spent a few days with Alan and they talked about footy and stuff like that,” he said.
“The boys will be one and it’ll be a good game."
The Wallabies take on the Barbarians on Saturday, kicking off at 3pm AEDT at Allianz Stadium, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and Network Ten.