Wallabies set for tough Barbarians
June 4, 2009
Sonny-Bill Williams make his return to Australia with the Barbarians © Getty Images
Sydney Football Stadium will play host to the Wallabies this weekend as they kick off their international season against a star-studded Barbarians side. England World Cup-winners Martin Corry and Josh Lewsey will bid farewell to the sport after the game, while Wallabies coach Robbie Deans will be hoping that his young side can hit the ground running ahead of Tests against Italy and France.
Deans and his squad will have no illusions about how difficult their task will be, after being run close by the Barbarians at Wembley in December and having seen this year's squad defeat England at Twickenham last weekend.
Deans has dropped regular Test wing Lote Tuqiri from his 22 for the game, going instead with a back-three combination of Adam Ashley-Cooper, Lachie Turner and Drew Mitchell. Stirling Mortlock leads the side from his preferred outside centre berth with Berrick Barnes and Matt Giteau providing a kicking arsenal at inside-centre and fly-half respectively.
In the pack, Reds skipper James Horwill makes his international return after injury and partners Nathan Sharpe in the second-row. Western Force flanker Matt Hodgson makes his first appearance in an Australia jersey and will be looking to impress the selectors alongside veteran openside George Smith and No.8 Richard Brown.
The Barbarians have a Wallaby skipper, with Phil Waugh leading the invitational side before linking up with the Australia squad for their Test matches. Waugh starts alongside Rocky Elsom, who has agreed a return to Australia with the Brumbies, and former All Black Jerry Collins in the back-row.
Ahead of kick-off all the media focus has been on the Barbarians outside-centre, with Sonny-Bill Williams returning to Australia after controversially walking out on rugby league side Bulldogs last year. Williams will be out to impress the All Blacks management in his first taste of international rugby union and starts alongside Guinness Premiership Player of the Season Seilala Mapusua.
Another former Wallaby starts at halfback for the Baa-Baas, with Chris Whitaker joining another returning Kiwi, Luke McAlister, in the side. Lewsey starts on the wing after impressing in the centre during last weekend's win over England, and Corry will bring the curtain down on his career with a start on the bench.
Australia: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Lachie Turner, Stirling Mortlock (capt), Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell; Matt Giteau, Luke Burgess; Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Al Baxter, James Horwill, Nathan Sharpe, Matt Hodgson, George Smith, Richard Brown
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ben Alexander, Dean Mumm, David Pocock, Josh Valentine, Quade Cooper, James O'Connor
Barbarians: G Murphy (Leicester Tigers & Ireland); I Balshaw (Gloucester Rugby & England), S Williams (Toulon), S Mapusua (London Irish & Samoa), J Lewsey (London Wasps & England); L McAlister (Sale Sharks & New Zealand), C Whitaker (Leinster & Australia); C Dermody (London Irish & New Zealand), S Bruno (Sale Sharks & France), BJ Botha (Ulster & South Africa), C Jack (Saracens & New Zealand), P Tito (Cardiff Blues), J Collins (Toulon & New Zealand), P Waugh (Waratahs & Australia, captain), R Elsom (Leinster & Australia).
Replacements: S Brits (Stormers & South Africa), G Somerville (Gloucester Rugby & New Zealand), M Corry (Leicester Tigers & England), S Betsen (London Wasps & France), J Marshall (Saracens & New Zealand), G Jackson (Saracens), B Blair (Cardiff Blues & New Zealand)
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor