Danielle Waterman looks at the Barbarians and women's rugby
By Danielle Waterman | Twitter: @Nolli15
Last Updated: 08/12/18 2:00pm
Nolli Waterman looks at the importance of the Barbarians in rugby and the positive role the famous invitational side could play in women's rugby...
Maybe the Barbarians are the most beloved rugby team of them all?
The spirit of the Barbarians is something to which everyone can relate. They have provided so much of rugby's royalty the opportunity to play alongside each other and to get to know the person behind the player who previously, they have only ever played against and battled for years.
Although there is often a mutual respect among players from different nations, it is the camaraderie built within a matter of days that shows the values held within rugby and the Barbarians are the epitome of it.
With so much analysis being done on each of the international sides, playing against the Barbarians is an opportunity to play against a team whose next move you cannot predict. This means you must ensure you focus on your own performance as you can only expect the unexpected from the players wearing the black and white stripes.
But what is their future? Do they have one? Could we lose them from the global game?
The international calendar of 2018 did not disappoint and this autumn we had records broken, the beating of the seemingly unbeatable and new stars producing some electric performances. Over the past month, Twickenham has played host to some of the world finest players and last weekend saw several them return in the black and white shirts of the Barbarians.
Out of their countries' colours, it was brilliant to see so many top-class players willing to step on to the field for a fifth week in a row. This came after an intense and physical autumn series and the end of an extremely tough season for southern hemisphere players.
Unfortunately, this sparked further discussions around the ongoing debate of 'player welfare' and this raised the issue of whether Barbarians fixtures should be added to an already jam-packed playing calendar.
However, for me the answer is simple. I totally support these games. It is an incredibly special opportunity for players and when scrolling through the social media of those involved, they clearly embraced their chance to become a Barbarian.
This was summarised brilliantly in Rassie Erasmus' post-match interview. The Barbarians head coach talked about approaching the game to say thank you to the players for a tough year and giving them an opportunity to go out and enjoy a game where they could have fun without the emotional pressure of representing their country.
He more than anyone would know that in today's elite game, players are put under a granite amount of pressure: from monitoring each step made in training through GPS units, to scrutinising each involvement and collision in post-match analysis.
Technology allows this progression in the modern game and is necessary if players are to perform and compete at the highest level. However, it gives very little breathing space to return to the freedom we all had when picking up a ball as a child and throwing it around with some friends.
These fixtures have also created a great platform for younger players to play for their country against the Barbarians. It is a chance to experience the build-up, the preparation, the routine of an international match day, which when new, can be both mentally and emotionally draining.
This, coupled with the physicality and intensity of playing against some of the world's best, highlights just where a player is and what aspects of their game they need to develop.
Therefore, I feel a Barbarians fixture would be a perfect addition to the women's international calendar. This autumn, we saw a record number of women's internationals being played, but unfortunately, we also saw a gulf in ability where only a few teams can truly compete against each other at the top of the pile.
England played USA, Canada and Ireland and won all three comfortably without playing what would be their first-choice teams. Historically, England have always been better than these teams, but it is the nature of this year's results that showed, in some cases, the other countries have significantly regressed since I last played them either in the 2018 Six Nations or the 2017 World Cup.
There is significant debate about the support levels provided for the women's game across the world and, although we are starting to see full-time contracts coming in for some nations, the consistency of international fixtures is also an important issue.
This is where I think the Barbarians can step in. Could they become part of a full series in either the autumn or summer, bringing together a side that can compete at an international level, but also producing a performance that challenges the best players and teams from around the world?
This surely would add a different dimension to the playing calendar and provide a great opportunity for the nations involved. It would also allow this iconic club to become an integral part of the women's game, and for everyone involved it would be something to be truly cherished.
I will definitely be keeping my fingers and even my toes crossed for the possibility of an England v Barbarians double header this coming May.