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Preview: Ireland legend Kearney ready for Barbarians swansong

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Preview: Ireland legend Kearney ready for Barbarians swansong

Rob Kearney Barbarians

Ireland legend Rob Kearney will play his final game of professional rugby in fitting surroundings on Saturday as he lines up for Barbarians against Samoa at Twickenham.

The 35-year-old full-back won 95 caps for Ireland throughout a storied international career – winning four Guinness Six Nations titles, including helping his country to Grand Slams in 2009 and 2018.

He was part of two British & Irish Lions tours, played in three World Cups, won four European Champions Cups with Leinster and will now sign off in front of a raucous crowd at Twickenham.

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His fearless skills under the high ball and deft attacking prowess will be on show one final time as the Baa-Baas round off a thrilling autumn of international rugby against the Pacific island side.

Writing on Twitter earlier this week, Kearney said: “It’s always been a dream to play for the Barbarians and what a historic team to play your last game of rugby with, grateful for the opportunity!”

Kearney will start on the bench in the No.23 jersey but the side will be captained by a fellow Guinness Six Nations star, Ryan Wilson.

The 32-year-old flanker has won 50 Scotland caps in his career and similarly to Kearney, will tick off another bucket list item at Rugby HQ.

“What a honour and a privilege to be given the chance to represent this unbelievable club. Dream come true! Roll on Saturday,” he wrote on Twitter.

TEAM NEWS 

Wilson is actually the only player from a northern hemisphere nation in the Barbarians starting XV as he lines up at blindside flanker, although Kearney, Georgian prop Gia Kharaishvili and Cardiff Rugby back-rower Olly Robinson are all on the bench.

There are seven Australian players in the starting line-up, including half-back pairing Nic White and James O’Connor, while South Africa provide some of the forward power – prop Steven Kitshoff, hooker Malcolm Marx and No.8 Duane Vermeulen all getting the nod.

There is also a Japanese flair threaded through the XV as Ryoto Nakamura starts at inside centre, Shinnosuke Kakinaga is at tighthead and Naohiro Kotaki partners Australia’s Rob Leota in the second row.

Covid restrictions have limited Samoa’s options in their selection but the squad still contains some recognisable names capable of causing plenty of problems for the Baa-Baas.

Prolific winger Sinoti Sinoti will take some stopping, Toulouse lock Joe Tekori provides veteran nous in the second row and Connacht’s former rugby league star Abraham Papali’I is a wrecking ball at No.8.

WHAT THEY SAID 

Barbarians head coach Dave Rennie: “We’ve had a great week – a good combination of work on the pitch, connection and fun. They guys have come together as a strong group and we’re all focused on tomorrow.

“We’ve got eight different countries represented in our squad and the diversity, different levels of experience and different playing styles have really combined to create an exciting line-up.

“We plan to get out there and play some champagne rugby against a strong Samoan side and give the fans a great show.” 

Samoa head coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua: “We are under no illusions at the enormity of the task ahead in our match against the Barbarians.

“I do believe we have selected a well-balanced, exciting group of players who have a great opportunity to add to the rich history of Barbarians matches.

“I am excited for the management group and players for the opportunity to play at HQ and also for our supporters and fans that Manu Samoa gets to take the field for the last international match of 2021.”

MATCHDAY SQUADS 

Barbarians: 15. Tom Wright (Australia, ACT Brumbies), 14. Marcos Moneta (Argentina, San Andres), 13. Len Ikitau (Australia, ACT Brumbies), 12. Ryoto Nakamura (Japan, Tokyo Sungoliath), 11. Filipo Daugunu (Australia, Queensland Reds), 10. James O’Connor (Australia, Queensland Reds), 9. Nic White (Australia, ACT Brumbies); 1. Steven Kitshoff (South Africa, DHL Stormers), 2. Malcolm Marx (South Africa, Kubota Spears), 3. Shinnosuke Kakinaga (Japan, Tokyo Sungoliath), 4. Rob Leota (Australia, Melbourne Rebels), 5. Naohiro Kotaki (Japan, Kobelco Kobe Steelers), 6. Ryan Wilson (Scotland, Glasgow Warriors) – captain, 7. Pete Samu (Australia, ACT Brumbies), 8. Duane Vermeulen (South Africa, Ulster Rugby)

Replacements: 16. Kosuke Horikoshi (Japan, Tokyo Sungoliath), 17. Angus Bell (Australia, NSW Waratahs), 18. Gia Kharaishvili (Georgia, Racing 92), 19. Rodrigo Fernandez Criado (Belgrano Athletic), 20. Olly Robinson (Cardiff RFC), 21. Tate McDermott (Australia, Queensland Reds), 22. Izaia Perese (Australia, NSW Waratahs), 23. Rob Kearney (Ireland, former Leinster and Western Force)

Samoa: 15. Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 14. Elijah Niko, 13. Opetera Peleseuma, 12. Parataiso Silafai-Leaana, 11. Sinoti Sinoti, 10. AJ Alatimu, 9. Nigel Hunt; 1. Aki Seiuli, 2. John Ulugia, 3. Paul Alo-Emile, 4. Ben Nee-Nee, 5. Joe Tekori, 6. Mikaele Tapili, 7. Talalelei Gray, 8. Abraham Papali’i.

Replacements: 16. Albert Onele’i, 17. Sakaria Taulafo, 18. Michael Alaalatoa, 19. Salo Tutaia, 20. Senio Toleafoa, 21. Reece Anapu, 22. Aviata Silago, 23. Alexander Luatua.