Wallabies to play host to Barbarians
December 22, 2008
Springboks star Bryan Habana takes on the Wallabies' defence during the Olympics Centenary match between Australia and the Barbarians at Wembley earlier this month © Getty Images
Australia will kick off their 2009 season with a return clash against the Barbarians at the Sydney Football Stadium on June 6.
The one-off match will also be the first in the 60-year history of the Wallabies and Barbarians to be played in the country and Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill insisted that the clash will have "show-stopping appeal".
The historic match follows the high profile clash between the two sides staged at Wembley earlier this month that the Wallabies won 18-11. It will also be the Wallabies' first game at the SFS in eight years since a 41-29 victory over the New Zealand Maori in 2001.
Barbarians matches have traditionally been scheduled as tour finales for Wallaby tours to Europe, with nine games played between 1948 and 2001 before the concept was revived this year in the London Olympics Centenary Match.
"The success of that match hardened our resolve to finalise discussions with the Barbarians about them coming to Australia for the first time," O'Neill said in a statement.
"Those negotiations also ensure us a Barbarians side of real quality, one that will help deliver a new experience to Australian sporting fans, and at a ground where our national team has not played for almost a decade.
"We're very excited by this Barbarians venture. So too are the Barbarians. In terms of their playing personnel, the possibilities for the Barbarians are enticing. Without going into specifics, we're confident this Barbarians team will have show-stopping appeal.
"The British and Irish Lions will be on tour to South Africa, but there are high profile All Blacks and Springboks, current members of the World Cup semi-finalists Argentina, and some very well-known Australian players tied to overseas clubs at present.
"The Pacific Islands have a number of players based in Europe who thrilled a global audience at last year's Rugby World Cup. There is also a chance a number of extremely recognisable British and French players will be available."
Barbarians club president Mickey Steele-Bodger welcomed the news and looked forward to an historic first for the world-famous club.
"We have had a long-standing relationship with the Australian Rugby Union and, after hosting 10 games over a period of 60 years at iconic venues like Cardiff Arms Park, the Millennium Stadium, Twickenham and, earlier this month, the new Wembley Stadium, we now look forward to coming to Sydney to sample Australian hospitality and play some Barbarian-style rugby," he said.
Australia will be the 22nd country visited by the Wallabies who have won their last six matches against the Barbarians, and seven of the 10 games played.
The club first travelled to the southern hemisphere in 1958, playing six matches in South Africa, and has also toured North and South America, Japan and Russia, Tunisia and Zimbabwe, as well as several European countries
The Barbarians' summer tour also includes a match against England at Twickenham on Saturday, May 30 before the squad flies out to Australia. A third fixture in the United Kingdom, prior to the Twickenham date, is currently under discussion.