Lions 2013

British & Irish Lions

Varty set for Barbarians bench after day of torment

Hong Kong winger put through emotional wringer as he is first left out of Barbarians squad to face Lions before being put on standby

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 July, 2015, 2:12pm

Dropped, then reinstated as a "standby" replacement within hours. That was the amazing emotional journey Hong Kong winger Rowan Varty endured yesterday before finally discovering he would be in the frame for Saturday's game against the British & Irish Lions at Hong Kong Stadium.

In an astonishing turnaround of events, the Barbarians management first revealed Varty would play no role in front of his home fans when the two storied teams meet for the first time on Hong Kong soil.

But just hours after the team was announced, replacement winger Mike Tindall, who led the team against England last Sunday and is also a Baa-Baas coach, had a twinge in his groin and was a doubtful starter. Varty was then placed on standby.

"Rowan is 90 per cent certain to start on the bench," said Barbarians media manager Alan Evans. "Mike [Tindall] had complained of a soreness in his groin and when the physio informed us about this we decided to put Rowan on standby as a precaution. We will decide on Mike's fitness on match day, but Rowan has a very good chance of coming on off the bench now."

There was widespread shock and disappointment among the Hong Kong rugby community after Barbarians manager Derek Quinnell named the 23-strong squad. Everyone from Hong Kong Rugby Football Union chairman Trevor Gregory to national coach Dai Rees expressed disbelief that Varty, local rugby's poster boy, had not been named in the squad.

Varty's inclusion in the Barbarians - the first time a Hong Kong player had been invited - was seen as an acknowledgement in the improvement of the local game and a boost to the sport's profile. Varty had said earlier he hoped his presence on the pitch on Saturday would inspire young children.

Barbarians coach Dai Young said it had been a tough decision to leave Varty out. Young said: "If you look at the quality we have on the wing, we had no option. I am disappointed for Rowan as he hasn't looked out of his depth, but with a squad of 27 players, someone had to miss out."

When contacted initially, Varty said, more than his personal disappointment, he was crushed because he could not play in front of his mum and dad, and the Hong Kong public. "I had got my hopes up a little, especially after playing at Twickenham where I proved I wouldn't be out of place. But at the end of the day, you have to select 23 players. I'm disappointed I won't have the chance of playing in front of my home crowd and against the Lions," said Varty. He was unavailable for comment later.

Varty came on for the last 18 minutes against England at Twickenham last Sunday in a match the Baa-Baas lost 40-12. He was widely acknowledged to have held his own on the wing. But with the squad stiffened up by Joe Rokocoko and Jared Payne in the backs, the competition for spots was tougher.

Gregory said: "It would have been very disappointing for the Hong Kong crowd if Rowan didn't play. I'm just delighted that he is now in with a chance, but at the same time very sorry to hear about the injury concerns to Mike Tindall."

Italian No8 Sergio Parisse who was named as Baa-Baas captain yesterday, urged the team to stand and deliver. "We have to do the simple things right,' said Parisse who did not play against England.

His words were echoed by Young. "We have to get back to the basics. Our scrum was poor last time and we know how important primary possession is. We had a lot of commitment last Sunday, but our application was poor. We will have to put in a much better performance and if we get a win it will be a bit of a bonus," Young said.