The 2017 Barbarians have the talent to trouble England at Twickenham
Vern Cotter has recruited a team of highly talented expendables for his mission to storm Twickenham and the watching crowd are in for a treat...
The Barbarians got down to business training in South West London earlier today, and with their final complement now announced, it appears they’ve coerced a fair amount of talent to give up their sunny Sunday afternoon to give Eddie Jones’ an uncomfortable time.
Wasps often joke they’re a merry band of waifs, strays and vagabonds and this multi-talented squad assembled by the Barbarians resembles a disparate group of players with a point to prove, skills to spare or just determined to wave their Test careers off in front of a bumper crowd. Here are a few players to catch the eye…
Points to prove
Alex Goode (England, 21 caps)
There are few better footballers in the game than Alex Goode. That was showcased perfectly during the Champions Cup final against Clermont, where he threaded through a sumptuous grubber for Chris Ashton to pick up, before crossing the whitewash. A late-call up, the Saracen and England outcast, will be looking to catch the eye of Eddie Jones. A class act.
Richard Hibbard (Wales, 38 caps)
The former Ospreys and now Gloucester stalwart has been pragmatic about his near two-year Test absence, but the former Lion has been in imperious form this season. As fit as he’s ever been, the hooker’s set-piece work, carrying in the tight and thunderclap tackling has meant the calls for his re-inclusion in the Wales set-up have grown ever louder.
Steffon Armitage (England, 5 caps)
The forgotten man of English rugby, Steffon Armitage dominated the column inches before the 2015 World Cup as a solution to England’s openside problem, but his playing in France and a reputation for being difficult meant he never got a look-in under Stuart Lancaster. Having left Toulon in the summer, he now plies his trade with Pau.
Ian Madigan (Ireland, 30 caps)
Madigan is another whose star has waned since Johnny Sexton return to Leinster speeded up his flight to Bordeaux where he has endured a troubled time, with injury problems and a strained relationship with the management. The talented playmaker with drive Bristol’s push for promotion from the Championship next year and he will relish the opportunity to take to the big stage again.
Ruan Pienaar (South Africa, 89 caps)
A much-loved son of Ulster bade his tearful farewell to the Kingspan weeks ago and the 89-cap Springbok, who controversially was blocked from finishing his career with Ulster by the IRFU, who felt he was blocking the pathway of up and coming scrum-halves; this after fellow Springbok Jaco Taute was given an extended contract for Munster, Pienaar will be keen to show his quality before he takes up a contract in the Top 14.
Catch them while you can
Thierry Dusautoir (France, 80 caps)
There was barely a ripple of acknowledgement when Thierry Dusautoir announced his retirement, here in the UK, and Dusautoir would have had no problem going under the radar. The former French captain, who famously made 38 tackles against the All Blacks in the 2007 World Cup, goes down as one of the best back-rows of the last decade and he deserves a big stage to go out. Bon voyage, Titi.
Mike Ross (Ireland, 61 caps)
For many years, Ireland fretted about how their scrum would buckle without the dependable Dr Mike Ross anchoring the scrum, but just in time, a 19st youngster from County Wexford called Tadhg Furlong picked up the baton. A top-class tighthead for Leinster and Ireland, he hangs up his boots this summer, and tweeted that he’d finally be able to unleash his creative talents with the BaaBaas. We look forward to seeing what he has up his sleeve…
Adam Ashley-Cooper (Australia, 116 caps)
The 116-cap Wallaby was unceremoniously dumped by Bordeaux at the end of this season, forcing him to head to Japan but the utility back who can play in midfield, on the wing and a full-back will know his way to the try-line at Twickenham, after scoring four tries there during the 2015 World Cup.
Timoci Nagusa (Fiji, 24 caps)
Barbarians coach Vern Cotter will be working with the explosive Nagusa next year at Montpellier so he’ll know all about the 6ft 2in, 16st powerhouse who can step you, run over you or put a team-mate away with a deft offload. Jonny May and Marland Yarde will need to be on high-alert when the former policeman gets the ball.
Facundo Isa (Argentina, 23 caps)
In last year’s Rugby Championship, when he faced the likes of Kieran Read and David Pocock from the base of the scrum, Facundo Isa did not look out of place. Powerfully set, he has been schooled under Daniel Hourcade’s Pumas and the Jaguares, so playing high-risk, high-reward rugby comes naturally. Much to the chargin of the Pumas, he heads back to Toulon on a two-year contract in the summer.
Waisea Nayacalavu (uncapped)
A former Fijian Sevens player, Nayacelevu has been scoring at the rate of every other game for Stade Francais since moving to the Top 14 in 2013. A rangy 6ft 5in, his long-stride and offloading skills mean he’s very difficult to shackle.
Backs: Horacio Agulla (Castres & Argentina), Adam Ashley-Cooper (Bordeaux Begles & Australia), Yann David (Toulouse and France), Kahn Fotuali’i (Bath Rugby & Samoa), Robbie Freuan (Bath Rugby), Rory Kockott (Castres & France), Ian Madigan (Bordeaux Begles & Ireland), Timoci Nagusa (Montpellier & Fiji), Waisea Nayacalavu (Stade Francais & Fiji), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster & South Africa), David Smith (Castres), Frans Steyn (Montpellier & South Africa).
Forwards: Patricio Albacete (Toulouse & Argentina), Steffon Armitage (Pau & England), Schalk Brits (Saracens & South Africa), Thierry Dusautoir (Toulouse & France), Corey Flynn (Star RFC & New Zealand), Ben Franks (London Irish & New Zealand), Gillian Galan (Toulouse), Richard Hibbard (Gloucester & Wales), Facundo Isa (Lyon & Argentina), Census Johnston (Toulouse & Samoa), Mikheil Nariashvili (Montpellier & Georgia), WP Nel (Edinburgh & Scotland), Mike Ross (Leinster & Ireland), Joe Tekori (Toulouse & Samoa), Jeremy Thrush (Gloucester & New Zealand).