By Alan Dymock
THERE’S A job needing done in the Far East. There’s a hoard coming from afar and they are well-equipped, well-trained and they are mean. It is time to fight fire with fire, though, and if the interlopers are to get a test rather than a glorified photo op, their first opponents will need to bring in some firepower.
The Barbarians are gonna need rugby’s Expendables.
Okay, it’s a bit of light-hearted fun, but the world’s most recognisable invitational side will be the first opponents on the British and Irish Lions 2013 tour when they line up against the home nations’ select in Hong Kong on Saturday, June 1 and on the hard track of China they will form the first line of defence, on the trade route to Australia.
So with Warren Gatland’s Lions squad being named April 30 and with the Australian Rugby Union making their plans to pull the Wallabies players out of action weeks before the first test there is a need to confront the juggernaut and their supporters with something impressive, or at least something entertaining and capable of extracting cheers of “Whoa!” from witnesses.
The Baa-Baas are drip-feeding us – that rag-tag band of British and Irish fans merrily dancing behind the Lions – some names; names of heavy-hitting, experienced internationals who could detonate in Hong Kong.
Martin Castrogiovanni; Nick Evans; Jaque Fourie; Mike Tindall; Imanol Harinordoquy. These are just the kind of rough-edged megastars that would be able to hold the Lions in check. They are also the kind of free-wheeling, one-handed ball-toting chancers that would kick off a tour with a sense of razzmatazz.
Once you also throw into the mix names like Sergio Parisse, Leonardo Ghiraldini and Kahn Fotuali’i you realise that the forecast will not be so much for blunt force trauma as flung passes, mazy runs and more than a few chips over the top. Oh, and expect a cross-field kick or two.
Of course, the Lions have their work cut out and would be happy for a run out, even if this gala showcase will be built up as a stern bout. After all, just four days later the Lions face the Western Force in Perth and three days after that they face the Queensland Reds at the Suncorp Stadium.
Summer tour commander, apologies coach, Dai Young, Wasps director of rugby, and player-coach Tindall will have a clearer picture of what they have to work with as domestic league and cup campaigns draw to a close. In the coming weeks we will be given more Barbarian soldiers of fortune.
The black and white-hooped mavericks will first play England in Twickenham on Sunday, May 26. Then they head East.
These games are always tricky. Remember the Argentina test in 2005 at the Millennium Stadium? That almost ignominious 25-all draw put a downer on the tour before the squad had even departed the UK and Ireland. So expect Gatland and his backroom to send out a strong side in Hong Kong; one capable of sending a message.
Expect blockbuster pyrotechnics to be the backdrop to the East’s city of lights, one that never, ever sleeps.Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.