Back misses out on Baa-Baas' global show

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The Independent Online

Neil Back has never been one to dip out of a game of rugby, even after being bludgeoned into the middle of next month by one of the biggest Springbok packs ever to take the field in anger.

Neil Back has never been one to dip out of a game of rugby, even after being bludgeoned into the middle of next month by one of the biggest Springbok packs ever to take the field in anger. When the Barbarians hierarchy announced yesterday that the England loose forward and occasional captain would miss tomorrow night's showpiece match with the touring Australians in Cardiff, there was no suggestion that Back was guilty of pulling a flanker, so to speak.

Back emerged from last weekend's victory over South Africa with a badly bruised hand; indeed, the damage was so considerable that there were dark mutterings about a possible broken bone. He reluctantly ruled himself out of another meeting with the Wallabies ­ he faced them twice for the Lions during the summer, and again with England at Twickenham a little over a fortnight ago ­ but has yet to make a decision on his availability for Leicester's big Premiership meeting with second-placed London Irish at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.

Rob Howley, the Cardiff scrum-half, will captain the Baa-Baas in front of his home town audience, and will have a fair bit of know-how at his side. Six Springboks ­ Percy Montgomery, Breyton Paulse, Stefan Terblanche, Braam van Straaten, Mark Andrews and Corne Krige ­ have been named in the starting line-up, along with a couple of highly experienced Antipodeans: Ian Jones, the former All Black lock, and Pat Howard, the Wallaby centre who aims to resurrect a Test career on hold since the mid-1990s.

Bob Dwyer, the coach of the invitation side, has acknowledged the Baa-Baas' tradition of including an uncapped player by picking the New Zealander Paul Miller at No 8. In many ways, though, the most intriguing figure will start the game on the bench. Mat Rogers, a highly successful rugby league wing from Australia, switched codes last summer and is expected to challenge hard for a Wallaby place when next year's Tri-Nations business comes around. If he shows a little Jason Robinson-style dash tomorrow night, he will help his cause no end.

Down among the so-called "developing nations", the board of Rugby Canada has reinstated Dave Clark as their Test coach in a volte-face of staggering magnitude. The union's decision to sack Clark last August led to fierce confrontation with the leading players, who had no hesitation in taking the ultimate step of refusing to play a home match with Australia scheduled for last month. That game was scrapped, as were Tests in Dublin and Edinburgh, when officials admitted they could not field a representative side.

Pat Parfrey, the recently-elected president of Rugby Canada, conceded that "due process had not been followed" when Clark was given the push, supposedly for attempting to professionalise the top end of the Canuck game. "I'm thrilled by the decision," Clark said. "It justifies all the turmoil and reinforces what people across the country had been thinking."

BARBARIANS TEAM (v Australia, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, tomorrow): P Montgomery (South Africa); B Paulse (South Africa), S Glas (France), P Howard (Australia), S Terblanche (South Africa); B van Straaten (South Africa), R Howley (Wales, capt); D Morris (Wales), R Ibanez (France), D Young (Wales), I Jones (New Zealand), M Andrews (South Africa), C Krige (South Africa), O Magne (France), P Miller (Otago). Replacements: R Cockerill (England), C Dowd (New Zealand), S Mayling (New Zealand), P Lam (Samoa), W Swanepoel (South Africa), C Spencer (New Zealand), M Rogers (New South Wales).

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