Barnes looms as super-sub against Lions

JIM MORTON
Last updated 14:27 17/06/2013
Berrick Barnes
Getty Images
BENCHED: Berrick Barnes isn't fussed if he's named on the bench for the first test against the Lions.

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Berrick Barnes rates it the biggest rugby match on earth since the 2011 World Cup final but won't mind if he watches the kick-off from the Suncorp Stadium bench.

Five days out from the first Test against the British and Irish Lions, Wallabies utility back Barnes is happy to continue in his 2013 identity as a super-sub if required by coach Robbie Deans.

Barnes has enjoyed great success as a second-half impact player for the NSW Waratahs, helping steal wins over the Stormers and Brumbies, and looms as a likely Australian closer against the Lions on Saturday night.

While the 27-year-old is vying for the No.15 jersey with Kurtley Beale, and no sportsmen want to be benched, the reserve role - probing for holes against a tiring defence - is one he'd embrace.

"Everyone likes to start, there's obviously a lot of prestige associated with that, but I firmly believe that it doesn't really matter," Barnes said.

"I firmly believe it's a 23-man squad which will get this thing done.

"Games are decided in the last 10 minutes and often it's whoever has got the strong bench and finishes the game the better that comes out on top.

"Whoever is on our bench on Saturday night is going to have a big role in front of them when they come onto the pitch.

"As we've seen in the last few (tour) games both sides have been out on their feet after 40 and I'd say the Test match intensity ... will be up a step."

Barnes did start his last Test, his 50th, but showed his game-breaking ability by throwing a last-minute cut-out pass which sparked Beale's match-winning try against Wales in Cardiff.

He's been training mainly at fullback in Camp Wallaby but has also been covering five-eighth and inside centre.

With underdone trio James O'Connor, Pat McCabe and Beale all favourites to start against the Lions despite match fitness concerns, Barnes' closing talents would no doubt be important for Australia.

The laidback Kingaroy product highlighted how much the compact three-Tests series meant to the Wallabies.

"This is the biggest game in the world since probably the World Cup," said Barnes on Monday. "You feel the build up and I actually think there's more excitement about this game and this series then there has been for that World Cup.

"Every publican in the street is bloody stoked."

Barnes couldn't help but laugh when a British journalist quizzed him about the Lions' relevance and perennial northern hemisphere questions about their touring future.

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"I don't know why you have that debate," he said. "I think it's the best thing that you guys do, I think it's fantastic.

"Why would you want to wreck 120-odd years of history?"

- AAP

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