Rugby Union: Barbarians in pursuit of pace: New Zealand face speed test in farewell to arms. Steve Bale reports

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The Independent Online
GAVIN HASTINGS to lead the Barbarians, Ian McGeechan to coach them - whatever the doubts over the merit of the Baa-Baas' continued presence on the fixture list of major touring teams, the invitation club yesterday came up with a worthy multi-national combination with which to bid the All Blacks farewell.

Hastings and McGeechan will be joined by four of their 1993 Lions - Gibbs, Scott Hastings, Tony Underwood and Popplewell - for the match at Cardiff Arms Park on 4 December. Gary Armstrong would have been a Lion, too, but for his late withdrawal from the tour. Having agreed to resume playing scrum-half for Jed-Forest, he is immediately thrust back on to a grand stage.

The Barbarians selection is notable for its contrasting philosophy from that of Scotland and England to play New Zealand. We saw what happened to the jumbo Scots pack last Saturday, and England's is along similar lines. By picking Neil Back, the speediest and most creative open-side flanker in Britain (but not the biggest), the Baa-Baas have signalled a different intent.

'We wanted a faster side rather than the bulkier teams that have been chosen against New Zealand by Scotland and England,' Mickey Steele-Bodger, the Barbarians' president, said. Thus Back is the traditional uncapped player, though Scott Quinnell was as well until his appearance in Wales's ill-fated Canada match a fortnight ago. Quinnell's father, Derek, played for the Baa- Baas in the celebrated 1973 match against the All Blacks.

If Back gives the Baa-Baas pace in the pack, they have the fastest movers in domestic rugby on the wide outside in Tony Underwood and the Olympic hurdler Nigel Walker. Underwood and Back have gained release from Leicester's Courage game at London Irish and Walker from Cardiff's in the Heineken League against Newbridge.

Given that it will be club league day in England and Wales and there will be a full round of Scottish-Irish provincial matches, the Barbarians have performed a minor miracle to assemble their team.

Even so, there are plenty who believe the All Blacks get off lightly by not having a full third Test, among them Geoff Cooke, the England and recent Lions manager. 'The problem when New Zealand come is the national sides have to go in underprepared,' he said yesterday. 'It would be sensible for the tour to be rounded off with a British Isles side against them. The Barbarians game doesn't have any logic to it.'

BARBARIANS (v New Zealand, Cardiff, 4 December): G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); T Underwood (Leicester), S Gibbs (Swansea), S Hastings (Watsonians), N Walker (Cardiff); E Elwood (Lansdowne), G Armstrong (Jed-Forest); N Popplewell (Greystones), T Kingston (Dolphin), E McKenzie (Paris University Club), P Johns (Dungannon), O Roumat (Dax), R Wainwright (Edinburgh Academicals), S Quinnell (Llanelli), N Back (Leicester). Replacements: A Clement (Swansea), D Wyllie (Stewart's / Melville FP), R Jones (Swansea), M Griffiths (Cardiff), K Milne (Heriot's FP), S Williams (Neath).