Rugby: The one match this week you didn't know about

By Alex McLeod

Highlanders midfielder Matt Faddes is one of the star players for the Barbarians ahead of their match against the Czech Republic tomorrow morning. Photo / Getty Images
Highlanders midfielder Matt Faddes is one of the star players for the Barbarians ahead of their match against the Czech Republic tomorrow morning. Photo / Getty Images

Every year, the November test window throws forward some intriguing encounters between the best rugby nations from the southern hemisphere, and the best the northern hemisphere has to offer.

The southern hemisphere's premiere sides are still running hot following their campaigns in the Rugby Championship, while the top European sides are always eager to test themselves against the traditionally dominant teams from the lower half of the planet ahead of the upcoming Six Nations.

Chuck into the mix the unpredictable tier two nations, such as Fiji, Japan and Georgia, who are all keen to prove their worth, and it all makes for very interesting viewing for rugby fans around the globe.

So far, this year has proved to be no different.

The All Blacks' shock first-ever loss to Ireland in Chicago, the Wallabies' demolition of Wales following their controversial Rugby Championship campaign, and a severely depleted Springboks side playing in a highly entertaining 31-all draw against the Barbarians at Wembley have all been prime examples of what the November test window is all about.

However, there is a match in this year's November test window that a lot of people probably don't know about that could provide just as much intrigue as some of the more publicised fixtures over the coming weeks.

The world famous Barbarians club are in action this test window, as they normally are, and, as mentioned earlier, kicked off their three-match tour with a pulsating 31-all draw against a weak South African side in London.

In the lead up to this year's November test series, if you were to mention to someone that the Barbarians were set to play South Africa, that person would probably think nothing of it.

But what about if you said that the Barbarians, stacked with Super Rugby stars along with fringe All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks players, were also set to take on the might of Czech Republic?

Even though the thought of an international fixture consisting of some of the potential stars of southern hemisphere rugby taking on a side as lowly as the Czech Republic may seem absurd to most rugby followers, that exact fixture is set to play out at 7am tomorrow morning (NZT) at Stadion Markéta in Prague.

Once the absurdity of how a side with as much class as the Barbarians is taking on the 32nd-ranked side in the world in an international fixture has sunken in, one would assume the talent and class of the British-based invitational side would be far too superior for the European minnows, whose last match was in June, where they lost 30-13 to a New Zealand Ambassadors side.

Former Wallabies and Crusaders coach Robbie Deans has named his side for the forthcoming fixture, with many familiar names set to run out against the Czechs in the famous black and white hoops.

The side will be captained by 11-test Ireland lock Dan Tuohy, and features nine New Zealanders in the match day 23.

Crusaders playmaker Richie Mo'unga and Highlanders player of the year Matt Faddes are the only New Zealanders to have made the starting line up, with a majority of the side being rested following their efforts against the Springboks.

Seven of the eight substitutes are made up of New Zealand Super Rugby players and former All Blacks, with Reggie Goodes, Ben Franks, Michael Fatialofa, Brad Shields, Andy Ellis, Jordan Taufua and Melani Nanai all set to make their mark from the bench.

Other notable figures within the side include 13-test Wallaby lock/loose forward Sam Carter, fiery Melbourne Rebels halfback Nic Stirzaker, and 123kg Fijian-born winger Taqele Naiyaravoro.

Following on from tomorrow morning's Czech Republic clash, the Baabaas conclude their November series against the much more familiar opposition of Fiji at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Saturday morning (NZT).

Neither of the Barbarians' remaining two matches will be televised in New Zealand, meaning rugby fans from this corner of the globe will be unable to witness oe of the oddest match ups in recent rugby history.

Barbarians side to play the Czech Republic tomorrow morning:

Clayton Blommetijies, Luke Morahan, Matt Faddes, Robert du Preez, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Richie Mo'unga, Nic Stirzaker, Ruan Ackermann, Kwagga Smith, Sam Carter, Martin Muller, Dan Tuohy (c), Toby Smith, Andrew Ready, Schalk van der Merwe.

Reserves: Akker van der Merwe, Reggie Goodes, Ben Franks, Michael Fatialofa, Brad Shields, Andy Ellis, Jordan Taufua, Melani Nanai.

- NZ Herald

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