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Barbarians v Wallabies Preview

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Barbarians v Australia 

The Michael Cheika era begins for the Wallabies with a match against the Barbarians at Twickenham 


This is not an official Test match but it's Cheika's first game in charge of Australia.

He turned things around at Leinster and the Waratahs to become the first coach to win both a European Cup and Super Rugby title.

Can he fix the Wallabies – on and off the field – in the 11 months he has before the World Cup?

A loss this weekend would ultimately mean nothing in the grand scheme of things but it would make Cheika's job of restoring morale within the Wallabies a whole lot tougher ahead of Tests against Wales, France, Ireland and England.

On the back of the most limited of preparations, Cheika has named an experimental line-up for his first match as Wallabies coach.

With a Test match against Wales to follow, Cheika has rested the likes of skipper Michael Hooper, props James Slipper and Sekope Kepu, halves Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley and veteran back Adam Ashley-Cooper.

He has given starts to Reds halves Will Genia and Quade Cooper — their first in Wallabies colours for 2014 — as well as Brumbies wing Henry Speight and props Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander, and named young loose forward Sean McMahon on the bench.

The Barbarians have named a 23-man squad that includes former Wallaby wing Nick Cummins. The Wallabies wing, who now plays in Japan, is joined in the starting side by no less than 10 New Zealanders.

All Blacks flyhalf Colin Slade, who kicked the winning conversion after the siren in the final Bledisloe match, is among the Kiwi contingent that also includes Steven Luatua, Matt Todd and explosive fullback Tim Nanai Williams.

Former Scotland captain Alastair Kellock will lead the side as one of two Northern Hemisphere representatives in the starting line-up – England prop Matt Stevens is the other.

South African centre Juan de Jongh and Argentine scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli are the other non-Kiwi starters.

"It'll be great to be back at Twickenham where I got my first [try] and it'll be nice to run out against the boys and I'm sure there'll be some banter and some carry on," Cummins said ahead of the clash against his old team.

"The preparation week might be different but what a great experience to be on both sides of the pitch.

“They’re a good bunch of blokes and even though the competition will be fierce, the beer after will be even sweeter."

Cheika's experimental side has been given a chance to prove themselves and the new coach is hoping to be suitably impressed.

“I told the players, the reality is the team that played against New Zealand last time out has probably earned itself another start for the Tests," he said.

"But a good performance, I won’t lie, will put pressure on me to back that player up in the Test next week.”

Players to watch:

For Australia: Will Genia, the star Reds No. 9 found himself third in the scrumhalf pecking order by the end of McKenzie’s reign, but he gets the opportunity to reignite his international career under a new coach. At his best Genia remains one of the few Wallabies capable of pushing for selection in a World XV. A nice display of running and scheming against the attack-minded BaaBaas on Saturday would do his hopes of a Test call-up against Wales no harm. Like his Reds partner Genia, Quade Cooper is also starting for the Wallabies for the first time in 2014. The silky-skilled playmaker was cut down by a shoulder injury and missed the June Tests against France as well as the entire Rugby Championship, before making his comeback via the NRC last month. Cheika has been impressed by his limited dealings with Cooper in training, and will no doubt be keen to see how that translates to a match situation.

For the Barbarians: As a team that is picked for star quality there are countless players to watch, but a big talking point will be the return of Nick Cummins - rugby's favourite personality. BaaBaas coach John Kirwan said he made his selection based on giving players who are on the fringe of national selection a chance to shine, so expect the likes of Juan de Jongh, Heinrich Brussow, Tim Nanai-Williams, Colin Slade, Steven Luatua and Marnitz Boshoff to really shine.

Head to head: Nick Cummins will be going up against the future of Wallabies rugby when he has to tackle the hard running Henry Speight who is finally eligible, and injury free, for Australia. The loose forward battle should be a key one with the BaaBaas looking nicely balanced between fetcher Matt Todd, veteran Adam Thomson and big ball carrying Steven Luatua, while the Wallabies have handed hard grafter Matt Hodgsona start (and the captains armband) along side Scott Higginbotham and Ben McCalman.

Recent results:

2011: Australia won 60-11, Twickenham

2009: Australia won 55-7, Sydney Football Stadium

2008: Australia won 18-11, Wembley

2001: Australia won 49-35, Millennium Stadium

1996: Australia won 39-12, Twickenham

Prediction: Barbarians rugby is not really about the result - which is a good thing because, due to the nature of the team, they are usually on the losing side. Cheika and his men will be taking this game a little more seriously than usual, due to their circumstances, so expect the Wallabies to come out firing and to pile the points on in a 30+ romp.

Teams:

Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 Benn Robinson.

Replacements - from: James Hanson, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Will Skelton, Sean McMahon, Nic White, Bernard Foley, Christian Leali'ifano, Joe Tomane.

Barbarians: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Al Kellock, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Matt Stevens.

Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Heinrich Brussow, 20 Matías Alemanno, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Joaquín Tuculet, 23 Marnitz Boshoff.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)

Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Gregory Garner (England)

TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

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