Fiji are next up to take on rugby’s favourite team, the Barbarians. The two sides will square off on Friday evening at the Kingspan Stadium.
The Barbarians will play their third game in the space of six days when they meet Fiji at the Kingspan Stadium this Friday. The two sides have only met twice in the history of the game with Fiji winning once and the Barbarians winning the other.
With both sides committed to playing attacking rugby, we should be in for a thrill a minute out at the Kingspan.
*Please note that this preview was written on Monday the 7 November before the Barbarians played the Czech Republic.
Barbarians v Fiji | Friday 11 November | The Kingspan Stadium | 21:30
To Win (80 Mins)
Barbarians 2/7 | Draw 25/1 | Fiji 5/2
Barbarians (-10.5) 9/10 | Fiji (+10.5) 9/10
The Barbarians really put on a show during their 31-31 draw against a weakened Springbok side at Twickenham last Saturday. The representative side managed to run in five tries with the pick of the bunch being Andy Ellis’ first half try which saw the ball run from deep inside Baa-baas territory.
Whilst they were unable to hold out for a victory - the Springboks managed to level the game in the dying minutes - the Barbarians still illustrate how dangerous they are with ball in hand. They will get the chance to underline their attacking credentials before they take on the Fijians as they have a game against the Czech Republic on Tuesday evening.
Tuesday night’s fixture could actually have an interesting bearing on Friday’s game. Barbarian’s coach Robbie Deans has opted to make a slew of changes to his squad for that game and will give the likes of Clayton Blommetjies, Kwagga Smith and Luke Morahan a chance to impress. The trio, who are all coming off the back of decent domestic showings in the Currie Cup or NRC, played limited or no role in last week 31-31 draw with the ‘Boks. All three will be relishing the chance to stake a claim for a starting berth against the Fijians.
Even if the aforementioned trio manage to catch the eye on Tuesday, Deans may still elect to continue with the majority of the starting XV that performed so admirably against the ‘Boks. The former Canterbury Crusaders’ mentor will surely field Nemani Nanai and Taqele Naiyaravoro in the back three, while Richard Buckman’s abrasive performance should guarantee him the starting 12 jersey.
The only two changes I can foresee Deans making to his backline are at fly-half and outside centre. Richie Mo’unga could come in for Western Province youngster Robert du Preez at ten, while Matt Faddes is likely to come into the outside-centre berth with Seta Tamanivalu having been called up to the All Blacks squad. Faddes place on the wing could be taken by Irish veteran Tommy Bowe who was called up to the squad late on Sunday evening.
That old adage about trying to find a needle in a haystack should really be readjusted to read ‘like trying to find a Fijian rugby union squad announcement’. I have spent the majority of my morning trying to find the Islanders squad to take on the Baa-baas. And from what I can gather, this Fijian squad will be an almost mirror image of the one that won the Pacific Nations Cup earlier in the year.
With the above in mind, we should see Super Rugby players Patrick Osbourne, Ben Volavola and Campese Ma’afu take to the Kingspan. The side is also likely to feature veteran utility back Seremaia Bai. The 37-year-old may be long in the tooth but his ability to read a game certainly hasn’t diminished.
Fiji have enjoyed a decent international season thus far winning their two Pacific Nations Cup fixtures against Samoa and Tonga. Their only loss of the year came as a massive shock as they went down 14-3 to Georgia in Suva.
Verdict: Barbarians (-10.5) 9/10
It is still early doors in the week so there’s nothing to really go by in terms of the odds we can expect to see for this one. I reckon the 9/10 handicap will open up around the -/+ 22.5. I could be wrong here as the Barbarians have to play another fixture and Fiji are yet to indicate how strong a team they will field. Nevertheless, if the minus handicap is available at anything under 28.5 points, I will be sticking a large sum on the Barbarians clearing it.