Cipriani ready to return home if given the call

Barbarians 11 Australia 60


Is it pandering to celebrity to begin a report on this not particularly engrossing chapter in the Barbarians' 121-year history with a mention of Danny Cipriani? Well, the Baa-Baas' latter-day existence depends on throwing together well-known players who, in this instance, were trounced by an Australian team warming up for their match against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday. Let us trust the 52,000 souls who pitched up to see it knew what they were letting themselves in for.

Cipriani let it be known he would return to England like a shot if the national team said they wanted him. Having kicked a couple of penalties, tossed a couple of lackadaisical passes, made some tackles and generally revelled in the Barbarians' style of rugby, Cipriani was asked whether he might come home even if an England coach did not give him the green light.

"I really am just looking forward to focusing on playing for the Melbourne Rebels next year," Cipriani said. "Come May, I'll have a decision to make. I've heard from clubs in London and some in the south west, and some from up north actually."

Barbarians coach Graham Henry said Cipriani should be given "a bit of space and see how he responds. Jumping on him and saying he can't do this, he can't do that, he won't do this, that's the very reason he won't play for England."

Playing behind a more serious pack, the erstwhile Wallaby wing, James O'Connor, looked a fine prospect at fly-half as he covered for the injured Quade Cooper. The baby-faced 21-year-old, nicknamed "Rabbit", found holes at will, with speed off the mark, intuitive show-and-go and a self-confidence greater even than Cipriani's.

David Pocock, the Wallaby captain while James Horwill was on the bench, was not required to exert his customary prowess at the breakdown as the Barbarians often missed the first-up tackle. When Horwill, a second-rower, came on in the second half, he had a try from Stephen Moore's front-of-line-out peel within 30 seconds and another just nine minutes later. The wings Digby Ioane and Lachie Turner also went over twice each and Rob Horne and Radiko Samo completed the Wallabies' list of try-scorers.

Sam Tomkins, the 22-year-old Wigan rugby leaguer, rounded off his one-off dip of the toe into union waters with a try at the death. If there was not a great deal of point to it all, that was the point. Or does rugby only matter now when it is about prizes and pots of gold?

Scorers: Barbarians: Try Tomkins Penalties Cipriani 2. Australia: Tries Ioane 2, Turner 2, Horwill 2, Horne, Samo; Penalty O'Connor; Drop-goal O'Connor Conversions O'Connor 7.

Barbarians I Toeava; S Tomkins, R Fruean, S Mortlock, B Habana (S Rabeni, 41); D Cipriani, P Stringer (N Kenatale, 41); E Guinazu (S Perugini, 41), K Mealamu (A Strauss, 41), S Marconnet, S Shaw (M Bortolami, 41), V Matfield (capt), J Kaino (J White , 41), M Bergamasco, A Thomson.

Australia XV: A Ashley-Cooper; L Turner, R Horne, B Barnes (B Tapuai, 37), D Ioane; J O'Connor, W Genia (N Phipps, 53); J Slipper, T Polota-Nau (S Moore, 50), S Ma'afu (B Alexander, 50), R Simmons, N Sharpe (J Horwill, 50), S Higginbotham, D Pocock (capt) (M Hodgson, 51), D Dennis (R Samo, 50).

Referee R Poite (France).

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