Mason on bench for Baa Baas
May 25, 2011
Willie Mason has been a big draw during his first week in union © Getty Images
Willie Mason will make his rugby union debut from the bench when the Barbarians meet England at Twickenham on Sunday.
The 31-year-old last week traded league for union, and Hull KR for French club Toulon. He has been named among the replacements for the first leg of the Barbarians' two-game tour - with a clash against Wales to follow next weekend.
It will be the first time the former Australia league international has played a union match since leaving school.
"I haven't been this excited about a game for a while," he said. "I'm way out of my comfort zone. I have thrown myself in at the deep end and I just can't wait to get out there and do it. I've played in plenty of big games before, it's not like I'm someone who doesn't know how to catch a ball, run, or tackle, which are the basics of rugby.
"Obviously I'm not going to go into the game thinking I'm going to get Man of the Match or anything, but I've got high expectations of myself as a player and a competitor. I'm not going go out there and be bullied around. I'll hold my own regardless if I'm playing a national side like England, which I have full respect for. But I am a competitor myself.
"It's a pretty big debut - against England at Twickenham, which is normally the highlight of your rugby career for many people."
Italy star Sergio Parisse leads the side with prop Davit Kubriashvili set to become the first Georgian to play for the Barbarians. In the second-row, Erik Lund becomes the first Norwegian to wear the black and white hoops, meaning that 31 different nationalities have represented the team.
Joining Parisse in the back-row are Wallabies legend George Smith and former Springbok Joe van Niekerk, while ex-England wing Paul Sackey will be up against some familiar faces. He links up with Nicolas Jeanjean and Tim Visser in the back-three. French international Frederic Michalak is at fly-half, with Ulster's Ruan Pienaar wearing No.9.
Barbarians: N Jeanjean (Brive); P Sackey (Toulon), B Baby (Clermont Auvergne), M Bastareaud (Stade Francais), T Visser (Edinburgh); F Michalak (Toulouse), R Pienaar (Ulster); S Perugini (Aironi), L Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso), D Kubriashvili (Toulon), E Lund (Biarritz), P Tito (Cardiff Blues), J van Niekerk (Toulon), G Smith (Toulon), S Parisse (Stade Francais, capt)
Replacements: S Bruno (Toulon), C Hayman (Toulon), Q Geldenhuys (Aironi), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), S Tillous-Borde (Castres Olympique), W Mason (Toulon), S Rabeni (La Rochelle).
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Despite having lost all four of their 2014 Six Nations games, the future of Italian rugby is bright with the team showing a new youthful core, argues Enrico Borra
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'