Bad boy Sergio Parisse to lead Baa-Baas charge at British & Irish Lions
Barbarians hoping to field a strong line-up for matches against England and the Lions
Italian captain and bad boy Sergio Parisse is set to lead the Barbarians in the historic offshore encounter against the British & Irish Lions at Hong Kong Stadium on June 1.
Bruising No 8 Parisse, who had a 40-day ban halved last month after insulting a referee while playing for Stade Francais in the French Top 14, was among the first batch of players picked by the Barbarians management for games against England and the Lions this summer.
Argentine-born Parisse, who led the Baa-Baas to victory over Wales and England two years ago, will be joined by fellow Azzurri Martin Castrogiovanni (tighthead prop), Samoan scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali'I, France back-rower Imanol Harinordoquy and Springbok centre Jacque Fourie, who helped the Barbarians defeat New Zealand in 2009.
"This year's summer tour is a very important one for our club," said Barbarians team manager Derek Quinnell. "It is a great honour to play the Lions as well as England and we are very conscious of the need to invite the strongest possible squad to do justice to two great fixtures.
"As the weeks go by and national squads are selected and domestic cup and league competitions reach their final stages, we are monitoring who will be available to us. We will then decide on the best balance of our squad in all positions."
The selection of the talismanic Parisse, 29, is a huge boost for the Barbarians. His leadership was a driving force behind Italy's 23-18 win over France in their opening game in the Six Nations.
The 93-cap veteran fell foul of the authorities in a club game on February 16 when he insulted the referee. A French Rugby Federation disciplinary committee handed him a 40-day ban with 10 days suspended, meaning he could only play again after March 18, two days after Italy's Six Nations campaign had ended.
A subsequent appeal resulted in the ban being reduced by half - he has now been charged with "failing in his captain's duty" rather than "insulting a referee" and will have to serve some community service - freeing the charismatic Parisse for this weekend's clash against England and the last game against Wales next Saturday.
The Barbarians will be coached by London Wasps' director of rugby Dai Young. The tour kicks off with the annual match against England at Twickenham on May 26 before the squad fly to Hong Kong for the clash against the Lions, stopping over on their way to Australia.