Barbarians' coaches and players embarrass the game

THE WEEKEND

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 09:38 28/11/2011

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So Graham Henry's international coaching career ends with a record defeat for the Barbarians.

Hardly the ideal send-off for Granddad Ted but one that was probably expected, looking through the largely average lineup the Barbarians managed to muster.

One of the great things about the Barbarians used to be the club's ability to bring together the cream of the crop from the United Kingdom, an almost shadow British and Irish Lions side on most occasions.

There were classic games, too - Wilson Whineray dummying his way to the line as the All Blacks ran in eight tries in a sublime performance before being cheered off the field by the Barbarians, Whineray on top of the shoulders of his team-mates.

Or Gareth Edwards' dazzling run made to look and sound all the better by the relaxed tone of Cliff Morgan's commentary.

These are games that are seared into the memory banks, classic encounters on occasions when rugby could shake the shackles of conservatism that have blighted its progress towards expansive play. Sadly the commercial realities of professional rugby look to have stymied any repeats of those great occasions.

The control greedy club owners hold over the game in Britain, combined with a massively overloaded playing schedule, constrained the Barbarians into picking a rabble of mostly over- the-hill internationals to play alongside a group of All Blacks who were happy to accept a sizeable cheque but were in no shape to perform after weeks of excess following their Rugby World Cup win.

So ridiculous was the Barbarians selection they threw a rugby league international, with no rugby experience, on to the wing to mark one of the best outside runners in the world.

Such was Sam Tomkins' knowledge of rugby, Barbarians assistant coach Steve Hansen was still explaining to him what a ruck was as he checked in to the Twickenham changing shed.

Yesterday's 60-11 result against Australia was embarrassing for Henry, and Hansen, no matter how they try to paint the "carnival" aspect of the match.

The pair, who no doubt enjoyed the five-star treatment of their fully funded trip, were paid well to prepare the Barbarians, as were the players who were invited to pull on the famous black and white hoops.

Some, including All Blacks pretender Isaia Toeava, should be thinking twice about cashing their cheques because they were simply awful against a Wallabies side that still cannot scrummage and relies almost solely on a backline that can be one of the most lethal in the game.

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The Barbarians might have been predictably poor but so were the coaches.

It was almost impossible to ponder Henry becoming even more arrogant than he was before the World Cup but Granddad Ted managed it in the leadup to his last hurrah when sitting at a press conference in front of a bunch of English hacks as if he was perched on the throne at Buckingham Palace.

Someone should have whispered in his ear that the game was not all about him but about upholding the proud history of the Barbarians.

It was obvious from the outset that Henry and Hansen had spent more time at the buffet tables and bars in Paris and London than devising a game plan to combat Dingo Deans' Wallabies.

It would not be a stretch to imagine their message to the players was as simple as throw Victor Matfield the ball at lineout time, fling it out to Bryan Habana and for God's sake try and show some "character" so I can churn out my overused line at every interview.

Go quietly now please Mr Henry. Thank you for what you have done with the All Blacks, you have been great value, unlike the Barbarians of 2011.

glenn.mclean@dailynews.co.nz

z O'Connor takes charge at 10: Page 14

- Taranaki Daily News

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