- O'Callaghan, Cowan and Hore look forward to Twickenham
- Dean Ryan looks to blend entertainment with performance
It is fairly tough to imagine Donncha O’Callaghan pulling off a goose-step, even the wildest reaches of one’s imagination. However, if Sunday’s game between the Barbarians and an England XV gets stretched, do not bet against the Ireland and Munster lock attempting something to please the Twickenham crowd.
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Following in the footsteps of his elder brother Ultan, who represented the famous invitational side against the Combined Services back in 2002, O’Callaghan is donning the celebrated black and white hoops for the first time this weekend.
Declaring himself “honoured” to be involved for Dean Ryan’s team of superstar names, he will be reliving the games played among his siblings in the garden as youngsters – albeit on a far bigger scale.
“I have three elder brothers so there were always two teams at home – Ireland and the Baa-Baas,” explained the 35 year-old, who starts in the second row alongside Springbok Juandre Kruger. “Nobody ever wanted to be England or Wales, that was unthinkable.
“When you were the Barbarians there was always an emphasis to try things – a hitch-kick or a chip ahead or something like that. I guess in that respect, this is a boyhood dream for me.”
Given an electric All Black trio of Joe Rokocoko, Rene Ranger and Hosea Gear will be lining up opposite England as well, moments of jaw-dropping skill are to be expected.
Captained by Argentinean flanker Juan Manuel Leguizamon, the Barbarians match-day 23 has been drawn from nine different nations and contains over 700 Test caps. Hooker Andrew Hore, a 2011 Rugby World Cup-winner, has come out of international retirement especially for this occasion.
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All in all, Ryan has a vastly experienced group with which to take on England. Scrum half Jimmy Cowan, another Kiwi, has the enviable task of sparking the stellar backline and hopes the likes of Ranger can be at their “damaging best”.
However, with the benefit of two seasons at Gloucester Rugby, Cowan has also become familiar with the majority of the England XV and insists an evenly-matched contest lies in wait.
“It’s tough for them because half of their squad is in New Zealand,” he added after the squad's first training session on Thursday. “But there will be a lot of guys looking to work their way up the pecking order. They’ve been in camp for the last two weeks and will be chomping at the bit.
“We’ve got to match their enthusiasm and, if we do, it should be a good spectacle of rugby.”