Barbarians v New Zealand talking points: Julian Savea and Beauden Barrett and more
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 04/11/17 2:21pm
November is here! And to kick off a month of top-class Test action, the Barbarians take on New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Action from 2.30pm.
The Barbarians have produced some vintage performances in the past and up against the double world champions, the quality and excitement of rugby on display is sure to be enthralling.
There's a host of talking points ahead of the game, from the Bus to skipper Barrett and the changing make-up of Baa-Baas squads.
Here's our look at the state of things before the match...
One of the main talking points heading into this one is the presence of All Black wing Julian Savea on the Barbarians side of things.
The 27-year-old Hurricanes back has earned 54 caps for New Zealand to date and has notched a phenomenal 46 tries. And yet he has been overlooked for an All Blacks squad place.
Indeed at the present moment, 'the Bus' would appear to be fifth or sixth in the All Black pecking order such is the quality available to Steve Hansen.
Having been ignored initially for duty against the British and Irish Lions, Savea was drafted back in for the third Test due to a glut of injuries.
Having spilled a key chance in that game, Savea then struggled to reach top form for the Hurricanes and was left out of the squad for the Rugby Championship.
Savea lined out for Wellington in a bid to regain some form and really stood out in their Mitre 10 Championship success, and he will know that should he stick it to his countrymen at Twickenham, he could be back in black sooner rather than later.
"I'm here to experience the Baa-Baas way of playing and to play against New Zealand," said Savea. "I believe the door [back to All Blacks selection] is always going to be there as long as I am playing the best I can.
"[Winning] is definitely a realistic target. For all of the boys here, it's a good opportunity and we're going out there with the mindset that we can."
All Black trial game?
As it turns out, Savea is not the only Kiwi who will come up against the All Blacks on Saturday.
In fact, there are some 13 New Zealanders in Robbie Deans' 26 man squad to face the All Blacks at Twickenham and Tonga at Thomond Park in Limerick.
In addition to Savea, capped All Blacks Ben Franks, Steven Luatua, Andy Ellis, Luke Whitelock and Dominic Bird are involved, alongside uncapped Kiwis Atunaisa Moli, Dillon Hunt, Mitchell Drummond, Richie Mo'unga, Vince Aso, Richard Buckman and George Bridge.
Such is the high presence of New Zealanders involved, All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster has likened the game to a "local derby".
The fixture could even be viewed upon as a form of trial match for those on the Baa-Baas side. Play well and who knows what could happen?
Northern Hemisphere absence
While there will be a number of star names from southern hemisphere rugby on show, there is not one player from any northern hemisphere nation involved, and only two from the Premiership in Franks and Ruan Ackermann.
Considering the great history of players from Britain, Ireland and France who have thrived for the Baa-Baas, such a situation can only be viewed upon as a disappointment.
The Premiership takes a break this week as clubs engage in Anglo-Welsh Cup duties, but not a single player from these shores has signed up.
Sky Sports' own Will Greenwood is involved on the coaching staff of the Barbarians along with Crusaders boss Scott Robertson and former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans. Here is his take on the lack of involvement:
"We made some phone calls. We didn't go crazy as you can't put too much pressure on," Greenwood told the Offload.
"There is an agreement in place that allows the Barbarians to go to the Premiership and ask, and clubs can decide on an individual basis if they can do it.
"But every single phone call we had was: 'In reality these are their off weeks and we're going to rest our senior players; We've lost a lot of players to England; We're struggling with injuries; We have to wrap them in cotton wool' etc.
"I go back to them and say: 'Well look we're not asking for Maro Itoje or George Kruis, but what about the guys who are just off the radar?
"Who could spend a week with Scott Robertson and Robbie Deans, train with Julian Savea, what an experience that would have been.
"If you can't get English players for this game against the All Blacks, you're never going to get them."
Skipper Beauden Barrett
While Steve Hansen has opted to rest a lot of his front-line players, fly-half Beauden Barrett does play and will captain the side, something he has never done in his entire rugby career.
All Black skipper Kieran Read, hooker Dane Coles, prop Wyatt Crockett, second row Sam Whitelock and centre Sonny Bill Williams won't be involved in the Barbarians clash as they don't arrive into London until Friday.
Barrett has been a consistent performer for the All Blacks over the last few years and has already earned 59 caps since his debut in 2012.
The 26-year-old is capable of utter magnificence, but the issue regarding his maiden captaincy has been played down by both Hansen on one side and Greenwood on the other.
"We need a leader and it's a good opportunity for him to lead," Hansen said. "He needs a game - he hasn't played for four or five weeks so we might as well start him and then we know where he is at."
Greenwood added: "He's already a leader in the fly-half jersey.
"He might not have had the 'C' alongside his name on a programme before but he's been captaining teams on the field for years."
Barbarians: 15 George Bridge (Crusaders), 14 Julian Savea (Hurricanes & New Zealand), 13 Richard Buckman (Highlanders), 12 Harold Vorster (Lions), 11 Vince Aso (Hurricanes), 10 Richie Mo'unga (Crusaders), 9 Andy Ellis (Kobelco Steelers & New Zealand); 1 Jacques van Rooyen (Lions), 2 Adriaan Strauss (Bulls & South Africa), 3 Atu Moli (Chiefs), 4 Sam Carter (Brumbies & Australia), 5 Dominic Bird (Chiefs & New Zealand), 6 Steven Luatua (Bristol & New Zealand), 7 Kwagga Smith (Lions), 8 Luke Whitelock (Highlanders & New Zealand).
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe (Lions), 17 Ben Franks (London Irish & New Zealand), 18 Ruan Smith (Toyota Verblitz), 19 Willie Britz (Sunwolves), 20 Ruan Ackermann (Gloucester), 21 Mitchell Drummond (Crusaders), 22 Robert du Preez (Stormers), 23 Dillon Hunt (Highlanders).
New Zealand: 15 David Havili, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Seta Tamanivalu, 10 Beauden Barrett (c), 9 TJ Perenara; 1 Kane Hames, 2 Nathan Harris, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 4 Luke Romano, 5 Scott Barrett, 6 Vaea Fifita, 7 Ardie Savea, 8 Jerome Kaino.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Jeff Toomaga-Allen, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Matt Duffie.