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The sentimental reason behind Baa-Baas midfield selection

By Chris Jones
(Photo by Frederic Stevens/Getty Images)

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Fabien Galthie, who led France to the Six Nations Grand Slam, has revealed he ripped up his plans for the Barbarians team to face England at Twickenham on Sunday after the players held their first dinner during their training camp in Monaco.

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Galthie had decided to use Fijian Levani Botia, who can play in the backs and forwards for La Rochelle, as flanker against England until he heard about the player’s schoolboy rugby career. Botia, nicknamed “Demolition Man”, was in the same school team as fellow Fijian Virimi Vakatawa and they were centre partners. Vakatawa is now a key member of Galthie’s French team and on discovering the link between the players he decided to reunite them in the Barbarians mid-field which means England are going to face two of the most potent attackers in European rugby.

Galthie said: “Yes, I hope it is a dangerous midfield for us. At the beginning we wanted to put Botia at No.6 position but after one dinner we learned that Botia and Vakatawa played together in the same school team in Fiji. They have never played since then and so it is like a present for them and for us for them to play together against England at Twickenham. So we changed our plan and so they are in their school positions when they were eight or nine years old.

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Will Skelton on Champions Cup celebrations and playing for the Barbarians | RugbyPass Offload | Episode 38
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Will Skelton on Champions Cup celebrations and playing for the Barbarians | RugbyPass Offload | Episode 38

“In the Barbarians team we have some nice stories like this and we are very happy about that.“

One of the other “nice stories” involves Will Skelton who has not been selected by the Wallabies which is bad news for the England pack with the La Rochelle lock able to partner fellow former Saracen George Kruis, playing his final game before retiring. “He is an international player and I do not know what the position is with the Australian Union and maybe they try to pick players who are in the country and not pick (Skelton) because it is not politic? :” said Galthie. “But, in this case it is an opportunity for him to play with George and they are back together.

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“We spent three days in Monaco with a nice view of the sea and then in Nice we played the French U20 and then we had a session with Esher, it was very friendly, and we mixed the two teams up.

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“The French staff (the entire France coaching unit is with the Barbarians) are preparing for two tests in Japan (in July) using the same methods and so with 19 French players it is a good experience. This is the British Barbarians with a French accent – it is a bit eccentric. Will we be more flamboyant? We will try our best on Sunday and we have a good mix of young talented players and it can be a French development with players like George Kruis, Will Skelton and Botia. Charlies Ollivon is back after recovering from his injury.

“At the start of the week we told the players about the history of the Barbarians and showed some of the tries and the one Phil Bennett started in 1973. He was French! Sometimes the French and Welsh are the same.”

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