By Rhys Thomas
June 1 2012
Wales play the Barbarians in the now annual summer fixture at the Millennium Stadium.
Wales face the Barbarians in a repeat of last year’s fixture, and Rob Howley’s men will be looking for revenge after that 31-28 defeat in June 2011.
That fixture saw the emergence of some of Wales’ finest talent such as Toby Faletau and first time skipper Sam Warburton. This time around however, the top sixteen players will be in Australia acclimatising, and it is left to the rest of the squad to contest this fixture. There is a mixture of experience and youth in this side, with Matthew Rees as captain.
The Barbarians feature a trio of Welsh players – Richie Rees, Duncan Jones and of course Shane Williams, who will be making his final professional appearance. He will be up against Harry Robinson, who Rob Howley has already dubbed as ‘Shane-esque’.
This game will be a chance for these players to put their hands up for the Australia tour and beyond. Wales have an excellent first XV, but to get anywhere in the world game you need a strong squad which this can help build towards.
The Barbarians have registered a defeat and a victory on their summer tour – against England and Ireland respectively. World Cup winning South African John Smit will lead them, and the man who won the RWC for the All Blacks last year, Stephen Donald, is at 10. Martyn Williams will make his 100th Wales appearance if he comes off the bench, which leads me to question the decision by the WRU to award caps for this fixture. England and Ireland don’t do it, so why do Wales? In my view it devalues the cap unnecessarily, in an era where there are more and more games, where younger players can get caps in full-on test matches.
Even though it isn’t the Welsh first team, I feel that Wales have to win tomorrow. These players tomorrow are part of a much longer plan, and I think that despite the youth and inexperience, there is quality in that team. There are several British Lions there, and that should be enough to see Wales through.
PREDICTION: Wales to win by 5
Wales: Liam Williams (Scarlets); H Robinson (Cardiff Blues), A Bishop (Ospreys), J Hook (Perpignan), A Brew (Newport Gwent Dragons); D Biggar (Ospreys), Lloyd Williams (Cardiff Blues); R Gill (Saracens), M Rees (Scarlets, capt), Rhodri Jones (Scarlets), A-W Jones (Ospreys), I Evans (Ospreys), J Turnbull (Scarlets), J Tipuric (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys)
Replacements: R Hibbard (Ospreys), P James (Ospreys), A Shingler (Scarlets), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), R Webb (Ospreys), A Warren (Scarlets), W Harries (Newport Gwent Dragons)
Barbarians: M Muliaina; I Nacewa, C Laulala, M Tindall, S Williams; S Donald, R Rees; D Jones, B August, J Smit (capt), M O'Driscoll, M Chisholm, F Louw, M Gorgodze, J Beattie
Replacements: A de Malmanche, N Tialata, A van Zyl, A Qera, R Lawson, S Tagicakibau, C Heymans