Barbarians Rugby


Old Barbarians Team Photo

It’s well known that the Barbarians are a legendary team that has featured some of the world’s greatest rugby players. Since it’s inception in 1890, the touring side has selected players from 31 different countries. The great honour of playing for the Baa-baas is that it is an invitational side – players represent their own club and/or country by wearing socks of their choosing, but the black and white hoops symbolise something that goes far deeper. Being a Barbarian is about pride in your work ethic, pride in yourself and pride in your team. Traditionally, the squad has always had at least one uncapped player, someone young who has yet to break onto their country’s watchlist but is only a short step away from it. Being a touring side, they don’t have their own ground or clubhouse but instead are catered for by the team they are visiting. Legend has it that they have been very well looked after over the years. They have visited 23 countries since they began.

 

The men’s team played their first Barbarians match against Hartlepool Rovers on 27th December 1890: they won 9-4. The women’s team played their first match a mere 129 years later against USA Eagles on 26th April 2019 and won a very close encounter 33-34. In an unprecedented step towards the promotion of women’s rugby, the women’s side played their double-header match at Twickenham against England before their male counterparts took to the turf on 2nd June 2019 – they drew in a crowd of 17,902 which looks to be a record attendance figure for a women’s rugby match. All too often the women’s matches are played after the men’s matches have finished, so many people will have left the ground to get home by the time they kick off. Another option has been to play at the same time as the men but in a different ground – in London it is often the case that international matches have been played at both Twickenham and Twickenham Stoop with the same kick-off time. No prizes for guessing who pulls in the biggest crowds.

 

Notable figures in both squads for this season were Danielle (Nolli) Waterman playing her last professional game of rugby; Rochelle (Rocky) Clarke, the most capped England international of all time, including both men and women; former Australia captain James Horwill and New Zealand All Black and Sevens player Liam Messam. Generally, players are selected for the Barbarians once they have announced their retirement or are coming towards the end of their playing career, adding that extra-special incentive to go out and ‘leave everything on the pitch’. Nolli started playing rugby at Minehead Barbarians in Somerset and has said in both pre- and post-match interviews that it was good to come full-circle, starting and finishing with a Barbarians side. She even wore one Minehead sock and one Wasps sock in a nod to both the start and end of her career.

 

With the recent announcement that England coach Eddie Jones will take the reins for the Barbarians v Fiji match in November, it is clear that the honour doesn’t go unnoticed by coaches either. As well as expressing his delighted at being invited to coach the team, Jones is quoted as saying that "the club perfectly embodies the values and traditions of the sport and fans can expect to see an exciting match between two sides who like to play end-to-end running rugby." Taking place just two weeks after the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final, there is sure to be a buzz about town when these two teams meet at Twickenham.

 

It really is a huge honour to be able to represent such a prestigious club and there must be so many players that wish they had been invited to play for them, or indeed hope to end their career with a call-up. For the fans, the only hope is that the tradition and reputation of the club – for both men and women – lasts for many years to come.

Ruck Be A Lady

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