By Alan Dymock
ON SATURDAY, during the Barbarians match against the British and Irish Lions in Hong Kong, everyone will be toiling with the heat. That is except for one man.
Local lad Rowan Varty, captain of the Hong Kong sevens team, has been handed a late and unlikely lifeline in his bid to play against the Lions after the Baa-Baas re-issued their teamsheet on Wednesday, almost immediately after coach Dai Young had confirmed his side for Saturday.
Varty, who came off the bench last week against England – playing a minor role in a game that turned into a shellacking for the invitational side – has been ‘bracketed’ with Mike Tindall as an unorthodox extra replacement in case the Gloucester centre and Baa-Baas player-coach does not shake off a previously unmentioned injury. It is unquestionably a proud moment for the semi-professional winger.
However the Barbarian powers-that-be came to the late decision to include Varty, it is certainly the right one, making a sentimental choice for a day when two nostalgia-soaked invitational teams bump chests for the first time since they met at Twickenham in 1977 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. With ticket sales not as healthy as sponsors would have hoped and complaints circling around the conditions, letting some see a Hong Kong representative offers at least some scant consolation. Even if he only waves from the dugout.
He has already got the Barbarian cap, the kit and the experience of being in that environment. The least the selectors could have done was let him stand inches away from the action at the HK stadium. They have done that now and that must be appreciated. He may even get on if the omens are right.
As for the game, the Baa-Baas have to improve markedly on what they produced at Twickenham. They were effortlessly bested by a young England side and know that with all the japes, privileges and open doors that come with the Barbarians invite, there is also the need to produce stunning rugby.
Here’s hoping that off-the-cuff brilliance materialises, because although sweat and ice jackets are guaranteed, the one thing everyone truly wants from this fixture is edge-of-the-seat entertainment. After all, we don’t want happy Varty to be the only man smiling.