Former South Africa lock Victor Matfield will captain a Barbarians team containing 10 different nationalities and more than a thousand test caps for Saturday’s international against Australia at Twickenham.
The 34-year-old will lead the invitational side out for the last match of his illustrious 10-year international career in which he won 110 caps and was a key part of South Africa’s World Cup-winning side in 2007.
“He’s a legend in the game – 110 tests for South Africa, four caps for the Barbarians,” said Steve Hansen, the All Blacks defense coach who is part of the Baa-Baas’ coaching setup for the match.
“He is a wonderful player and you can see why when you get up close. It’s been a pleasure to work with him so far.”
The Barbarians have put together a powerful, experienced lineup as they attempt to follow up wins over New Zealand and South Africa in the last two years with another over Australia, which will treat the match as a useful warmup ahead of a test against Wales in Cardiff on Dec. 3.
Four members of New Zealand’s 2011 World Cup-winning squad – Keven Mealamu, Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson and Isaia Toeava – were included in a starting team managed by recently departed All Blacks coach Graham Henry and Hansen, his longtime assistant and possible successor.
Former Australia captain Stirling Mortlock, South Africa winger Bryan Habana and France prop Sylvain Marconnet are other stalwarts to be called up.
At the other end of the scale, Sam Tomkins, the 22-year-old England rugby league fullback will start on the wing in what could be a precursor to an eventual move to union later in his career.
After playing for England in last weekend’s Four Nations final against the Kangaroos, the Wigan star will line up for his first game of rugby union and he admitted it would be a stern test against the world No.2 side.
“Playing them both in eight days is something strange for me,” Tomkins said.
“I have massive respect for rugby union as well as rugby league.”
As the first rugby league contracted player to turn out for the Barbarians, last season’s leading tryscorer in the Super League will wear his Wigan socks.
“It is one of those things I am going to look back on and be glad I did it, no matter how it goes,” he said.
“I would love to make an impact, I don’t want to just make the numbers up,” he said.
Hansen described Tomkins as “an interesting kettle of fish.”
“He’s coming from the other game and it will be interesting to see how he plays,” Hansen said.
“He’s got plenty of skill – he’s shown that in his league performances this year for England. It will be exciting to see what he does with the ball in hand.”
Aside from Tomkins, Crusaders centre Robbie Fruean is the other uncapped player in the starting team.
Barbarians Squad To Play Australia
Sam Tomkins (England RL), Bryan Habana (South Africa), Isaia Toeava (New Zealand), Robbie Fruean (Crusaders), Stirling Mortlock (Australia), Richard Kahui (New Zealand), Seru Rabeni (Fiji), Danny Cipriani (England), Peter Stringer (Ireland), Nemia Kenatale (Fiji), Keven Mealamu (New Zealand), Adriaan Strauss (South Africa), Salvatore Perugini (Italy), Sylvain Marconnet (France), Eusebio Guinazu (Argentina), Victor Matfield (South Africa), Simon Shaw (England), Marco Bortolami (Italy), Jason White (Scotland), Jerome Kaino (New Zealand), Adam Thomson (New Zealand), Mauro Bergamasco (Italy).
by Buford Balony