Baa-Baas vow to lift tempo for Hong Kong Lions clash
After being roundly panned for a poor performance against England, the Barbarians want to make amends against the Australia-bound tourists
Stung by widespread media criticism over the disappointing performance against England, the Barbarians management has all but read the riot act to its players and promised to step it up for Saturday's historic clash against the British & Irish Lions at Hong Kong Stadium.
"This is going to be a huge challenge and a big game for us as a club coming up against the Lions. We know a performance like what we showed last weekend will not be good enough. We have made that quite clear and everybody understands that and we know we will be quite competitive come Saturday," said Barbarians coach Dai Young yesterday after watching his 27-strong squad complete their first full workout at So Kon Po since arriving on Monday.
Media reports after Sunday's 40-12 loss to England at Twickenham said the Barbarians had "looked a shadow of past teams which had worn the famous black and white hooped jersey".
Barbarians' manager Derek Quinnell promised a better show against opponents who would also be keen to make a statement with Saturday's game being the opener on the tour to Australia.
"The weekend was a big disappointment for us. To be fair, England played very well and we didn't, and from that point of view we will improve for Saturday. We have brought in a number of new personnel and we will put in a lot of work over the next couple of days," Quinnell said.
"The new guys will liven us up and also we will have more time to prepare. We only came together a few days before the England game and didn't have the best of preparation. That will change this week and the guys will get down to the nitty-gritty and be prepared for Saturday."
Among the new faces is Italian powerhouse forward Sergio Parisse, a former captain of the Baa-Baas, former All Black winger Joe Rokocoko and former Auckland Blues and Ulster winger Jared Payne.
"I played two years ago for the Baa-Baas, and it is a big honour to be back again. I have good memories of the last time playing against England and Wales, and winning both matches. For any player, especially from Italy, it is a great opportunity, and I know we have enough talent and skill among this group of players to put the Lions under pressure," Parisse said.
The Barbarians will name their line-up today, but one name certain to be pencilled in is Hong Kong winger Rowan Varty, who came on in the second half against England.
"Rowan has fitted in very well and has not looked out of place," Young said. "He is among a group of international players and acquitted himself well, and has put his hand up for selection."
The Hong Kong showdown will only be the second time the two storied teams will meet. The previous occasion was in 1977, when a charity fund-raiser was played at Twickenham as part of the Queen's silver jubilee celebrations. The Lions won 23-14.
"I was involved in the last game in 1977 as well, playing for the Lions then," Quinnell said. "We had just come back from New Zealand and some players, who had been expected to be on the Lions tour and were not available, people like JPR Williams, Gerald Davies and Gareth Edwards played for the Barbarians against the Lions that day. It was a great occasion and we are hoping Saturday will be similar."
The Barbarians promised open play, but said victory would be the priority.
"First and foremost we have to ensure we win the game and if we have to kick the goals to do that, we will do so," Quinnell said. "There is no doubt the Lions will want to get off to a good start, but we will certainly be putting the ball through the hands on numerous occasions."
Organisers claimed the stadium is two-thirds sold, and that they "fully expect" it to be at least three-quarters full at kick-off. Tickets will be available at the stadium on the day of the game.