Best to captain Barbarians on Gatland’s return

Former Ireland captain Rory Best is set to skipper the Barbarians side that face Wales on Saturday in Cardiff.

Former Ireland captain Rory Best is set to skipper the Barbarians side that face Wales on Saturday in Cardiff.

Best, who retired from professional rugby at the end of this year’s World Cup after making 124 appearances for his country and winning four Guinness Six Nations Championships, will lead a Warren Gatland-coached team that features former France centre Mathieu Bastareaud and Scotland back-rower Josh Strauss.

The hooker will form part of a Baa-Baas front-row with Fijian Campese Ma’afu, while substitute hooker Schalk Brits is set to play in his final international appearance.

The uncapped fixture also marks former Wales head coach Warren Gatland’s return to the Principality Stadium, giving him the chance to say an emotional farewell to Welsh supporters as Wayne Pivac leads the side into a new era.

Gatland said: “I’m just looking forward to Saturday – it’s a great opportunity for me to say thank you to the fans and the Welsh public for 12 brilliant years.

“It’s been a great experience, getting to know players I’ve not worked with before – the guys have bonded and had a bit of fun, as well as getting serious as well.

“I don’t think I can lose, really, either way – we’re here to play some rugby and give a good performance.

“I think when those competitive juices start to flow, it’s about going out and delivering a performance and hopefully the Barbarians winning.”

Best enjoyed a glittering career for Ireland, captaining the men in green to Guinness Six Nations Grand Slam victory in 2018 while he won the Championship in 2009, 2014 and 2015.

He scored 12 tries for his country during a career that spanned 14 years, also being included in The British & Irish Lions squads on their tours to Australia in 2013 and New Zealand in 2017.

But despite announcing his retirement after the World Cup in Japan earlier this year, the former front-rower is now returning to lead a side also including the likes of Andre Esterhuizen, Curwin Bosch and Bryn Hall among the backs.

Best will also line up in the front three alongside Wiehahn Herbst, with Pete Samu and Marco van Staden featuring in the back-row and Tyler Ardron and Luke Jones starting at lock.

Esterhuizen will be joined in the backline by fellow Springboks Cornal Hendricks and Dillyn Leyds who start on the wings, while Shaun Stevenson is set to play at full-back.

Barbarians: Shaun Stevenson, Dillyn Leyds, Mathieu Bastareaud, Andre Esterhuizen, Cornal Hendricks, Curwin Bosch, Bryn Hall, Campese Ma’afu, Rory Best (c), Wiehahn Herbst, Luke Jones, Tyler Ardron, Pete Samu, Marco van Staden, Josh Strauss

Replacements: Schalk Brits, Craig Miller, Hencus van Wyk, George Biagi, Angus Cottrell, Jano Vermaak, Bill Meakes, Matt Duffie