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History of the Barbarians

By Sean Davies

William Percy Carpmael, the founder of the Barbarians

The Barbarians are a unique rugby club, with no natural home, membership by invitation only and a philosophy based on adventure and attack.

The club was inspired by one man - William Percy Carpmael.

He loved the culture behind the rugby tour and came up with the idea of regular short tours involving players of the highest skill levels.

In 1890 he took the Southern Nomads - mainly composed of players from Blackheath - on a tour to the north.

In Leuchters Restaurant, Bradford, the concept of the Barbarians was agreed upon over an oyster supper.

The idea took off, and the club's spiritual home became the Esplanade Hotel, Penarth, where the Barbarians always stayed on their Easter tours of Wales.

Leuchters Restaurant, Bradford, where the Barbarians were formed

First international

The big development came on 31 January, 1948, when an international match was played against the touring Australian Wallabies.

The plan was originated to help pay for the Aussies to return home via Canada and it was a huge success.

Cardiff Arms Park was packed with 45,000 spectators and the rugby matched the occasion, the invitational side finally running out 9-6 victors.

A legend had been born and the Barbarians game became the traditional high point to end a tour of the British Isles.

They played South Africa for the first time in 1952, losing 12-3, and New Zealand in 1954, losing 19-5.


Australia v Barbarians: The record
Australia 6-9 Barbarians (Cardiff, 31-01-48)
Australia 6-11 Barbarians (Cardiff, 22-02-58)
Australia 17-11 Barbarians (Cardiff, 28-01-67)
Australia 7-19 Barbarians (Cardiff, 24-01-76)
Australia 37-30 Barbarians (Cardiff, 15-12-84)
Australia 40-22 Barbarians (Cardiff, 26-12-88)
Australia 30-20 Barbarians (Twickenham, 28-11-92)
Australia 39-12 Barbarians (Twickenham, 07-12-96)
Australia 49-35 Barbarians (Cardiff, 28-11-01)

The Baa-Baas repeated their 1948 success over the Wallabies with an 11-6 win at Cardiff in 1958 (the Arms Park hosted every game between the two sides until 1992), before the Australians got their revenge in '67 - a 17-11 win.

A team featuring many of the stars from the classic 1973 Baa-Baas - Bennett, Edwards, Gibson, et al - despatched the Wallabies 19-7 in '76.

Australian rugby has itself always been based on a running philosophy, and their play was never better than in 1984.

Having completed the Grand Slam against the home nations, the Wallabies cut loose in a thrilling game to win 37-30, with a try count in their favour of six to five.

The same spirit was carried through to 1988 - another six tries saw them to a 40-22 win, including a virtuoso display from David Campese.

In a moment Jonathan Davies would rather forget, Campo turned the covering fly-half inside and out before crossing for a memorable try.

The last five Australia-Barbarians meetings have continued the exciting traditions of the fixture, if failing to quite meet the standards of the '80s, Australia running out winners in each encounter.

Springboks head taken

S Africa v Barbarians: The record
South Africa 17-3 Barbarians (Cardiff, 26-01-52)
South Africa 0-6 Barbarians (Cardiff, 04-02-61)
South Africa 21-12 Barbarians (Twickenham, 31-01-70)
South Africa 15-23 Barbarians (Dublin, 03-12-94)
South Africa 41-31 Barbarians (Cardiff, 10-12-00)

After the Springboks' 12-3 win over the Barbarians in 1952, one of the most famous Baa-Baas victories would come in 1961.

The touring South Africans arrived at the Arms Park undefeated, having beaten Wales, Ireland, England (twice) and Scotland.

The Barbarians picked a team full of match winners, captained by Ireland hooker Ronnie Dawson.

They displayed huge commitment to go alongside their flair, epitomised by Swansea full-back Haydn Mainwaring's bone-crunching tackling.

This helped the invitational side to a remarkable 6-0 win and at the end of the game the mutual respect between the two teams was clear to see.

The victors were presented with a mounted Springbok head by the tourists, and as they had no clubhouse to hang it in it was put on display in Penarth's Esplanade Hotel.

The Baa-Baas toured South Africa in 1958 and 1969, but the next game against the Springboks came in 1970.

It was overshadowed by the apartheid issue, with mass protests before, during and after the game.

For the record, the tourists ran out 21-12 victors at Twickenham.

NZ v Barbarians: The record
New Zealand 19-5 Barbarians (Cardiff, 20-02-54)
New Zealand 36-3 Barbarians (Cardiff, 15-02-64)
New Zealand 11-6 Barbarians (Twickenham, 16-12-67)
New Zealand 11-23 Barbarians (Cardiff, 27-01-73)
New Zealand 13-13 Barbarians (Twickenham, 30-11-74)
New Zealand 18-16 Barbarians (Cardiff, 16-12-78)
New Zealand 21-10 Barbarians (Twickenham, 25-11-89)
New Zealand 25-12 Barbarians (Cardiff, 04-12-93)

The Boks were welcomed back into the international fold as the Rainbow Nation in the 1990s and on 3 December, 1994, again played the Baa-Baas, this time at Dublin's Lansdowne Road.

The Barbarians finished as 23-15 winners, with tries to Simon Geoghegan and Philippe Saint-Andre.

By the time the sides next met, at Twickenham in December 2007, South Africa were back at the top of the rugby world having just claimed their second World Cup triumph.

But they were unable to give outgoing coach Jake White a winning send-off, a thrilling and committed Baa-Baas display seeing them to a famous 22-5 victory.

Another win followed for the invitational side at Twickenham in December 2010, two Drew Mitchell tries helping them to a 26-20 victory over an under-strength Springboks side.

The greatest game...?

The most famous Barbarians game of all was, of course, the 1973 match against the touring All Blacks.

THAT try by Gareth Edwards was just the beginning of a match of mesmeric quality, the Baa-Baas stunning their visitors and easing to an 11-23 win.

In December 2004, New Zealand cruised to a 47-19 win at Twickenham.

But at the same venue in December 2009, the invitational side claimed just their second win over the All Blacks.

A hat-trick of tries by Springbok Bryan Habana inspired them to a 25-18 success.

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see also
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Scrum V's rugby history
11 Aug 07 |  Welsh
Wales v Barbarians: Full record
12 Jul 10 |  Rugby Union
Barbarians quiz
26 May 03 |  Internationals
The try of the century
07 Nov 02 |  Celtic

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