• Welsh Rugby

Wales to award Test caps for Baa Baas clash

ESPNscrum Staff
April 2, 2011
The Millennium Stadium will play host to Wales' clash with the Barbarians on June 4 © Getty Images

Wales have announced that they will award Test caps for their clash with the Barbarians on June 4

The decision has been taken by the Welsh Rugby Union's Board of Directors "in recognition of the status of the fixture and its importance to Welsh rugby history". The match has been organised to commemorate the 130th anniversary of the formation of the WRU as the governing body of the union game in Wales.

Caps have been awarded by Wales twice before in games against the Barbarians, first in the Baa Baas' centenary celebration match in 1990 and again in 1996. Wales coach Warren Gatland will be out to rewrite the history books which show that Wales have only beaten the Barbarians twice and have lost five times.

The first Wales versus Barbarians game took place in 1915 when Wales lost by 26-10 and the last encounter between the two teams was in 2004 when Wales secured a 42-0 win. The last capped international against the Barbarians in 1996 featured Rob Howley and Neil Jenkins, both currently integral parts of the Wales national squad coaching team, as half backs for their country. The match also marked the first cap won by Martyn Williams who has currently played 98 times for Wales.

Looking ahead to the clash, Gatland commented: "The first thing for the squad players to do is impress us physically and in rugby terms on the training camps, then the opportunity comes against the Barbarians. They are always an unknown quantity and we won't really know what to expect from them until that first whistle goes, but that is the attraction of Baa Baas rugby."

The deadline for World Cup squad announcements is August 22, with Wales launching their tournament campaign against reigning world champions South Africa in Wellington, New Zealand on September 11.

"I am delighted at the schedule of warm up fixtures we will be playing in June and August next year it is important for us to measure our progress against some top class opposition," added Gatland. "It is going to be an exciting and challenging campaign in New Zealand and these games will give the boys the sort of send off they need before taking their hopes and aspirations into the Rugby World Cup arena.

"The Millennium Stadium is a fantastic venue and games against the Barbarians, England and Argentina will give us the best possible chance to fine tune our rugby. These matches will be our final games on home soil, the last chance for the players to impress before RWC selection, which must be completed 48 hours after we face the Pumas, and our final chance as coaches to make some tough decisions."

The chairman of the WRU, David Pickering, said, "We are delighted to announce that Wales will award full caps for this important and historic fixture. The game represents the continuation of a proud history of encounters which have featured some amazing rugby down the years. Every player selected to pull on the Welsh jersey on June 4 will be fully aware there is a lot at stake in the fixture."

The Group chief executive of the WRU, Roger Lewis, commented: "Warren Gatland will be out to prove his team can overturn a tough history of losses against the Barbarians and deliver a win for the record books. He and his coaching team will also be closing in on deciding the make-up of their Rugby World Cup squad so the players will want to impress.

"Barbarian fixtures are always built around exciting rugby so it will be a chance for Wales to fine tune some strategies and show just how good we are. Match-day will be extra special because the WRU will be celebrating our 130th anniversary which is a vitally important milestone in our history.

"From that first meeting in Neath on March the 12, 1881 rugby has grown into the national sport of Wales and our nation is known around the world for our prowess in the game. Many of the greatest Welsh players have worn the Barbarian jersey and Penarth has been renowned as the spiritual home of the team which has no country or clubhouse."

Barbarians' president Micky Steele-Bodger said: "It is a great pleasure for the Barbarians to be invited to share in this significant match. As a club we are very proud of our own history and, in particular, we are conscious of the contribution of so many Welsh players and administrators to our cause over the years. Returning to the Millennium Stadium on 4 June is the perfect opportunity for us to return the compliment."

Wales' World Cup warm-up fixtures:

Saturday, June 4, 2011
Wales v Barbarians, Millennium Stadium (KO tba)

Saturday, August 13
Wales v England, Millennium Stadium (KO 2.30pm)

Saturday, August 20
Wales v Argentina, Millennium Stadium (KO tba)

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