Back in the glory days, when they were capable of giving fully-fledged Test teams a serious hurry-up, the Barbarians prided themselves on their ability to gel together after a couple of light training sessions and a night in the pub. Now, rugby's most celebrated scratch team tend to play sides even scratchier than themselves, and Clive Woodward's latest England selection will be no exception when they engage in their annual tangle with the black-and-white hoops at Twickenham on Sunday week.
There is nothing remotely scratchy about Phil Vickery, the Gloucester prop, who will lead the side, or Kyran Bracken, the experienced Saracens scrum-half, who will act as the West Countryman's second in command. But Woodward, denied the services of players from a number of Premiership clubs still involved in competitive rugby and keen to rest as many senior citizens as possible in advance of next month's trek to the Antipodes, has named 15 uncapped players in a 28-man party for the gadabout fixture.
The coach has pulled in some of them from the back end of beyond: Matt Cairns, the 24-year-old Saracens forward, is one of three hookers in the squad, while Dan Hyde, the Leeds flanker whose representative experience goes no further than a dabble at England Students level, has every chance of getting on the field as the back-up open side to Michael Lipman of Bristol. Simon Amor, a seven-a-side specialist from Gloucester whose Premiership appearances have been rarer than hen's teeth, is also in the frame, although it is a fair bet that the exciting David Walder of Newcastle will start at outside-half.
Most of the big hitters – Will Greenwood, Jonny Wilkinson, Jason Leonard, Martin Johnson, Richard Hill, Neil Back – have been spared the torment of a high-speed thrash around south-west London in blazing sunshine. Wasps and Bath meet in the Parker Pen Challenge Cup final at Reading's Madejski Stadium the same afternoon, so their players are out of the the running. So too are those from Northampton, who travel to Wasps tomorrow for the Premiership semi-final. Vickery, on the other hand, needs some meaningful activity after months of injury hassle.
While there is something synthetic about Baa-Baas fixtures these days, it will be intriguing to see how Mark Cueto, the prolific finisher from Sale, performs almost a year after being overlooked by the national hierarchy for the one-off Test in Argentina.
Scotland, who play the Baa-Baas at Murrayfield three days after the England match, have named 26 players for the game, and will take the same personnel to South Africa for next month's internationals in Durban and Johannesburg. Two Edinburgh men, Simon Webster and Andrew Dall, make up the uncapped contingent, while there is a return to top-level activity for the powerful Glasgow centre Andrew Henderson, who has beaten Kevin Utterson to a place in the squad. There is no Tom Smith, though. The world's best footballing prop will miss the end-of-season business through injury.
(v Barbarians, Twickenham, 25 May)
Backs: D Scarbrough (Leeds), P Christophers (Bristol), M Cueto (Sale), D Luger (Harlequins), M Stephenson (Newcastle), J Noon (Newcastle), B Johnston (Saracens), K Sorrell (Saracens), D Walder (Newcastle), S Amor (Gloucester), K Bracken (Saracens), N Walshe (Sale). Forwards: D Flatman (Saracens), M Worsley (London Irish), P Vickery (Gloucester, capt), A Sheridan (Bristol), M Regan (Leeds), A Titterrell (Sale), M Cairns (Saracens), A Brown (Bristol), C Jones (Sale), A Codling (Harlequins), H Vyvyan (Newcastle), M Corry (Leicester), P Anglesea (Sale), M Lipman (Bristol), D Hyde (Leeds), A Balding (Leicester).
(v Barbarians, Murrayfield, 28 May; Tour to South Africa, 29 May to 15 June)
Backs: Blair (Edinburgh), Craig (Orrell), Henderson (Glasgow), Laney (Edinburgh), Logan (Wasps), McLaren (Bordeaux), Metcalfe (Glasgow), Paterson (Edinburgh), Redpath (Sale, capt), Ross (Leeds), Townsend (Borders), Webster (Edinburgh). Forwards: Bulloch (Glasgow), Dall (Edinburgh), Douglas (Borders), Fullarton (Sale), Hines (Edinburgh), Kerr (Leeds), Leslie (Edinburgh), McIlwham (Bordeaux), Mower (Newcastle), Murray (Edinburgh), Petrie (Glasgow), Russell (Saracens), Taylor (Edinburgh), White (Sale).Reuse content