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Sam Whitelock to lead experienced Babarians squad against Fiji

By Martyn Thomas
Pau's New-Zealander second row Sam Whitelock looks on during the French Top 14 rugby union match between Section Paloise (Pau) and Castres Olympique at the Hameau Stadium in Pau, southwestern France, on February 3, 2024. (Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP) (Photo by GAIZKA IROZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Sam Whitelock is set for a Twickenham swansong when he captains a Barbarian side packed with international experience in their Killik Cup clash with Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday.

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Two-time Rugby World Cup winner Whitelock heads a 23-player squad that includes eight England internationals and a total of 968 Test caps.

Ben Youngs and Danny Care will share scrum-half duties on Saturday, while Zach Mercer, Kyle Sinckler, Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph, David Ribbans and Kieran Brookes have also been selected for the invitational side.

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They have been joined in a formidable Barbarian squad by former Japan hooker Shota Horie – who like Whitelock is playing his final match – Wallaby Scott Sio and France star Gaël Fickou, all of whom have at least 50 international caps to their name.

Watch the Killik Cup live on RugbyPass TV HERE

Incoming Saracens fly-half Fergus Burke is set to make his first appearance in London, meanwhile, and will line-up in an exciting backline that also includes Leicester Fainga’anuku, Virimi Vakatawa, and Chay Fihaki.

Robbie Deans has returned to coach the Barbarians for a sixth time and has called on a number of players from his Saitama Wild Knights side that finished as Japan Rugby League One runners-up last month.

As well as Horie, Lachlan Boshier, Jack Cornelsen, Craig Millar and Liam Mitchell have all flown to London to face Fiji. Cameron Woki, Harry Thacker, and Fabian Holland complete the line-up.

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“I’m delighted with the group that we’ve gathered together here in London,” said Deans. “It’s a great squad with a lot of experience, as well as a lot of guys who are at the front end of their careers as well.

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“They all understand the privilege they have got to wear this jersey, so we have a fantastic week ahead of us.

“The key is for us all to come together and connect. All these guys can play brilliant rugby – they wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t – so we just want to help them bring all their skills come Saturday for the benefit of the Barbarians, and so they enjoy the experience as well.”

Barbarians squad

Forwards

Lachlan Boshier (Saitama Wild Knights)
Kieran Brookes (RC Toulon, England)
Jack Cornelsen (Saitama Wild Knights, Japan)
Fabian Holland (Highlanders)
Shota Horie (Saitama Wild Knights, Japan)
Zach Mercer (Gloucester Rugby, England)
Craig Millar (Saitama Wild Knights, Japan)
Liam Mitchell (Saitama Wild Knights)
David Ribbans (RC Toulon, England)
Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England, British & Irish Lions)
Scott Sio (Exeter Chiefs, Australia)
Harry Thacker (Bristol Bears)
Sam Whitelock (Section Paloise, New Zealand – captain)
Cameron Woki (Racing 92, France)

Backs

Fergus Burke (Crusaders)
Danny Care (Harlequins, England)
Leicester Fainga’anuku (RC Toulon, New Zealand)
Gaël Fickou (Racing 92, France)
Chay Fihaki (Crusaders)
Jonathan Joseph (Biarritz Olympique, England)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, England)
Virimi Vakatawa (Bristol Bears, France)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, England, British & Irish Lions)

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1 Comment
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Graham 30 days ago

Great photo of Sam Whitelock and his brother Luke playing for Pau in France. How fitting that Crusaders and All Black great Sam Whitelock is captaining the Barbarians in his last game of rugby. Great to see former Crusader and team mate Leicester Fainga’anuku there . As well as Fergus Burke and Chay Fihaki , who both finished the season on a high for the Crusaders.

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finn 4 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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