Preview: Australia v Barbarians

Fri, 27 Oct 2017 07:53

CELEBRATING RUGBY: Israel Folau, named Australian's best player, will put his sublime talents on display one more time on Saturday.

Folau, who is set to go on a sabbatical after Australia's clash with the Barbarians on Saturday, comfortably out-polled fellow Wallabies Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley to win the John Eales Medal.

It was the Waratahs utility back's third accolade in the five seasons he has been playing Rugby Union since making the switch from league.

"I'm never satisfied, it's always about the team and how we can improve and move forward and get better," he said after the awards ceremony on Thursday.

Folau scooped 260 votes from fellow players, ahead of Beale (166), Foley (146), and Michael Hooper (142).

No other player has won three times, with just George Smith, Nathan Sharpe and Hooper winning twice.

Beale said he was honoured to be recognised, after a sensational season since returning from England.

"For me it's been special to receive this award and be recognised by the guys that you go out with and play alongside, that's something that I'm very humbled by and you can't really describe it with words," he said.

Barbarians coach Alan Jones put a light-hearted spin on Saturday's outing, joking it would be an 'Australian rugby crisis' if the BaaBaas won.

Cheika and Jones addressed media together on Thursday, ahead of the clash and the silver-tongued broadcaster wasted no time heaping the spotlight on his counterpart.

"Basically, if we win on Saturday there is a crisis in Australian rugby," he laughed.

"Job on the line, players on the line."

The Barbarians mentor often takes swipe at the game's administration and indeed said again on Thursday that he 'wouldn't sell them to a traveller on the street', but he said the Wallabies could succeed in spite of off-field dramas.

"My view may not be Michael's [Cheika's] view but this bloke is smart enough," he said.

"He has managed to quarantine these people from that.

"The Wallabies are not Australian rugby, they're representative of Australian rugby and yes I think we can win the World Cup.

One of those overseas-based Australians is Crusaders prop Mike Alaalatoa, who was actually in Barbarians camp on Thursday before failing to get a clearance from his Super Rugby franchise to play, frustrating Jones.

"It's just ridiculous, isn't it?," he said.

"The game is about the players, it's about the players.

"Here's a kid that is in the hotel and he wants to play...You should have seen the look on his face.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for them that they won't get anywhere else."

Discarded Wallaby Quade Cooper leads an exciting young Barbarians team against Australia in Sydney.

The Reds' fly half is the most experienced in terms of Test appearances in the staring line-up with 70 caps. He makes his debut for the famous invitation club after appearing against them for Australia in 2014.

Cooper will run a cosmopolitan backline featuring Samoa fullback Tim Nanai-Williams and New Zealanders Augustine Pulu and George Moala as well as three Aussies in Taqele Naiyaravoro, Tom Banks and Eto Nabuli.

Queensland rookie Liam Wright has been named on the Wallaby bench for Saturday's clash with the Barbarians, after Rory Arnold was ruled out with a knee injury.

It's been a memorable few days for Wright, who on Thursday took home the Under-20 Player of the Year at the Australia awards after staring for the Australia U20 team at the 2017 Junior World Championships in Georgia.

The 19-year-old will now get the chance to pull on a gold jersey before making his Super Rugby debut, should he come off the bench at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.

Arnold's injury has forced a shuffle in the match day 23, with Kane Douglas set to start and Ben McCalman shifting into the number 19 jersey.

The Wallabies have only played the Barbarians in Australia once before, that back in 2009, when the men in gold ran out 55-7 winners at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.

This will be the thirteenth meeting between Australia and the invitational side, and their first since November 2014, in what was also Michael Cheika's first game as Wallabies coach.

It will also be an interesting clash off the field as well, with Cheika to go toe-to-toe with good friend and former Wallabies coach Alan Jones.

Teams:

Australia: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Israel Folau, 10 Duncan Paia'aua, 9 Nick Phipps (captain), 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Jack Dempsey, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Curtis Rona, 23 Izaia Perese.

Barbarians: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Tom Banks, 12 George Moala, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper (captain), 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Isi Naisarani, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Salesi Manu, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Theo Strang, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Andrew Kellaway.

Twenty-fourth man: Sam Ward.

Date: Saturday, October 28
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 15.00 (04.00 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)

Sources: AFP & rugby.com.au