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.
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery
"England remind me of a PlayStation rugby team," John Mitchell on tactics and the search for a first-choice fly-half ahead of the World Cup
Augustine Pulu will return home with little more than 20 minutes rugby in one month on tour. It is time for more midweek games writes Craig Dowd
Samoa's Sivi Tau says the team "come completely prepared", the reality is a world away. Seilala Mapusua on Samoa and building a future