The Army Rugby Union will continue celebrations of its centenary season with a match against the world famous Barbarians FC on Wednesday 4th April at The Stoop Stadium, Twickenham - Kick Off 7.45pm.
The Barbarians' links with services' rugby have a long and distinguished history and it is particularly appropriate that this landmark centenary match against the Army is being staged at the Twickenham Stoop. After all, it was just down the road in Richmond that the rugby men of the Barbarians and the armed forces got together to stage matches during the Great War of 1914-1918.
Though all official sport was 'on hold' during the hostilities, the Rugby Football Union had no objection to fixtures that would raise morale as well as aid military funds and recruitment being organised. The committee of the Barbarians took up this responsibility with notable success. Although only six games were played over the course of the four years, they contributed significantly if indirectly to the war effort.
For the Army Rugby Union Centenary celebration match the players wearing the famous black and white shirt of the Barbarians will range from those who have already played at the highest level to those who now aspire to follow in their team-mates' footsteps.
Three of the backs, an Australian, an Irishman and an Argentinian, share nearly 200 international caps and over 800 points between them. Joe Roff will need no introduction to English audiences. Ten of his 86 Australian caps have been against the men in white and he is one of the rare band of Wallabies who has played in the final stages of three Rugby World Cup tournaments. If his winner's medal after the 1999 final at the Millennium Stadium takes pride of place, those of us who supported the British and Irish Lions across Australia two years later might still remember him best for the interception try in the second test that effectively turned the series on its head.
Not far behind him out of the tunnel will be Kevin Maggs. These days all the talk in Irish rugby may about the centre partnership of Messrs O'Driscoll and D'Arcy but until recently Kevin was ahead of both of them as the most capped Irishman in the position. An impressive 70 tests and 15 tries, no less, in an international career stretching back to 1997 and a couple of World Cups since then, not to mention Heineken Cup rugby with Bath, Bristol and Ulster.
Gonzalo Quesada is set to make his Baa-Baas' debut. He joins a distinguished line of Pumas who have served the Club well over the years, not least his one time half-back partner, Agustin Pichot. Second in the all-time points' scoring for his country behind the legendary Hugo Porta with an impressive 486 to his credit, this season he has been playing for Toulon in France and there is little doubt that he is a colourful addition to the Barbarians' ranks.
Another debutant -and playing alongside Quesada at scrum-half - will be Clive Stuart-Smith and his involvement shows another of the Club's great traditions. Clive's great-grandfather, Stephen Farmer, played for the Barbarians and scored the winning try against Leicester in February 1914.
Elsewhere in the match squad are young players who are testimony to the Club committee's knack of identifying talent that is coming through the ranks. Neil Hallett, an England Counties full-back from Esher, was drafted in for the summer tour twelve months ago and made a man-of-the-match debut against Georgia. More recently, tearaway Coventry flanker Tom Johnson caught everyone's eye in the annual Mobbs Memorial Match against East Midlands. Then there's Craig Hammond, a Kiwi who leads Nottingham in Division One, Matt Cornwell, highly recommended by Pat Howard from his Leicester stable, Ollie Hodge, a linchpin of Exeter's lineout, and Dai Maddocks, a livewire loose-head prop with Wales under-21 honours and invited back for his second game for the Club inside a month.
Of course, the capped players are never far away. So look out to for gnarled front-rowers Justin Fitzpatrick of Ireland and Scotland's Steve Scott and, as we go to press, the 30-times capped Justin Harrison is hoping to become a second Wallaby alongside Joe Roff.
And if that's not enough name dropping for one evening's entertainment, how about the Barbarians' coach, Zinzan Brooke. No further explanation is necessary - except to say that dropped goals are frowned on by the Baa-Baas!
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Visit the Barbarians FC website for more information.