Barbarians at the gate
December 3, 2009
The 2008 Barbarians kick back after their game with Australia at Wembley © Getty Images
Twickenham will open its gates to the Barbarians on Saturday, with the famous invitational side set to face down the challenge of the unbeaten All Blacks.
The star-studded Baa Baas will go out to play the open, expansive rugby that has become the club's trademark and attracted some of the greatest players in the history of the game to don the black and white hoops. We take a look back at some of the Barbarians' most significant fixtures in our latest Scrum Seven.
Barbarians 9-4 Hartlepool Rovers, 1890
The Barbarians have always been more than just a team, as was their design by their creator William Percy Carpmael. The former Cambridge University player's vision was a touring side allowing players from every walk of the game to turn out together, originally to fill a lengthy void at the end of the season, which finished in March.
Their first game came in 1890, against Hartlepool Rovers. The popularity of the concept led to several regular fixtures springing up in the intervening years, with the Mobbs Memorial Match, in remembrance of Bedford's Edgar Mobbs, killed in World War 1, and their Easter tour. There they would play Penarth, Cardiff, Newport and Swansea and stay at the closest thing the club had to a clubhouse, the Esplanade Hotel in Penarth.
English great Wavell Wakefield reminisced of his time with the Barbarians: "The basic idea of the Baa-Baas always was that rugby football was a game to be played for enjoyment, and that the greatest enjoyment could be obtained by the playing of the game as it was meant to be played - for fun and pleasure - and that could best be achieved by throwing the ball about and by playing attacking and adventurous rugby football.
"But to do this, of course, does mean that the players must be skilled and knowledgeable about the game. The Barbarians believed and considered that it was a great honour to belong to their club, as, indeed, it was, and that the qualification was not just to be a good player, but to be a well liked person as well."
Barbarians 9-6 Australia, Cardiff Arms Park, 1948
The Barbarians were invited by the Home Union committee to assemble a side to face the touring Australians before they headed for home, a not inconsiderable trip that was required to pass through Canada and needed the game to be staged as part of a fundraising effort.
The Wallabies had beaten England 11-0 at Twickenham and lost to France in Colombes before heading to the Arms Park to face the newly-assembled Baa Baas. The game, won by the Barbarians, was such a success, with 45,000 turning out, that it was coined as the 'Final Challenge' match, which would from then on be contested by a touring southern hemisphere side and the Baa Baas.
Barbarians 6-0 South Africa, Cardiff Arms Park, 1961
Avril Malan's Springboks carved a path through the home unions in the winter of 1960-61, winning a Grand Slam tour with Test victories over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. After a short hop across the channel to draw 0-0 with France in Colombes, the Boks returned to the scene of their victory over Wales to face the Baa Baas.
Skippered by Irish hooker Ronnie Dawson the Barbarians set the tone for their victory with some shuddering defence. Swansea fullback Haydn Mainwaring was particularly vociferous. Following the game they were presented with a mounted Springbok head, which was hung in the Esplanade Hotel.
Barbarians 23-11 New Zealand, Cardiff Arms Park, 1973
"Kirkpatrick to Williams. This is great stuff. Phil Bennett covering, chased by Alistair Scown. Brilliant, Oh, that's brilliant. John Williams... Pullin, John Dawes. Great dummy. David, Tom David, the half-way line. Brilliant by Quinnell. This is Gareth Edwards. A dramatic start. . . . what a score!"
Featuring the greatest try of all time in the eyes of many, this game pitted the great and good of the British & Irish Lions' 1971 series win over New Zealand against the All Blacks once again. Cliff Morgan's excited commentary has become almost as recognisable as the pictures, beginning with Phil Bennett's devastating sidesteps, taking in John Dawes' phantom dummy and Derek Quinnell's offload before Gareth Edwards flew over in the corner. It's pure poetry and just one reason why the Barbarians are loved the world over.
Barbarians 22-40 Australia, Cardiff Arms Park, 1988
In 1984 the Wallabies had progressed through Europe under the steam of Mark Ella, who scored a try in each of their Tests on the way to a Grand Slam. They went on to face the Baa Baas in Cardiff as David Campese inspired a 37-30 victory for the Australians.
Four years later, after a loss to England and win over Scotland, the Wallabies again prepared for a 'Final Challenge' game. Campese was again his usual self, relishing the vast open space provided by the Baa Baa's traditional gameplan. Campo scored a memorable solo try, bewitching Welsh fly-half Jonathan Davies, no slouch himself, before putting the seal on their 40-22 victory.
Barbarians 22-5 Australia, Twickenham, 2007
The Springboks stopped off in the UK at the tail end of 2007 with the Rugby World Cup in tow following their victory over England at the Stade de France. Wales were dispatched easily at the Millennium Stadium in the inaugural Prince William Cup match before they went to face a star-studded Baa Baas outfit at Twickenham.
In the back-three for the invitational side was Jason Robinson, England's World Cup-winning wing, who was playing his final international game before retirement. 'Billy Whizz' provided several trademark bursts and his invention was matched with tries to Australians Matt Giteau and Rocky Elsom and a virtuoso solo effort from Wales openside Martyn Williams. The Barbarians were alive and well, much to the chagrin of Springbok coach Jake White, who was also enjoying his international swansong.
Barbarians 11-18 Australia, Wembley, 2008
The Baa Baas were called upon to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the London Olympics in 2008, taking to the field against Australia at Wembley Stadium in honour of the Wallabies' rugby triumph over Great Britain, represented by Cornwall, a century earlier.
In a close game showing the water-tight defence of modern rugby, the young Australian side had too much for a Barbarians team featuring some of the world's best in All Black skipper Richie McCaw, Springbok scrum-half Fourie du Preez and lock Bakkies Botha. Their try came from Jerry Collins following an all-too-Barbarian burst from Welsh dynamo Shane Williams.