When the Barbarians come to town, there is no promised script. That is what makes this invitational team so attractive in the rugby world.
So, tonight at Thomond Park, expect the unexpected, although Ireland’s captain Jamie Heaslip is ready and waiting to believe everything will be directed in his direction.
The reason? The Barbarians will be captained by Heaslip’s former Leinster and Ireland colleague Shane Jennings. “A right pain in the ass,” suggested Heaslip at yesterday’s pre-match press conference.
“He is unbelievable to play with. Back-row is always a blend and any time you’re playing with Shane you know that there are certain things you do not have to worry about.
“You know that he is clued in inside out and back to front.
“He is a consummate professional with a great moral compass, Paulie (O’Connell) said it at our end of season Ball that when you saw Shane Jennings’ name in a team sheet you knew you were in for a tough day.
“I’ve been beside him when he broke his arm and he kept playing. He’s telling the medics - I won’t use the word - to go away and not let them have a look, and he’s still got that kind of mindset and that kind of mindset doesn’t come around a whole lot.
“That takes a very determined man and unfortunately we’re going to be playing against this individual, he’s going to make it a nightmare, I think it’s a fantastic way for him to end his career.”
Head coach Joe Schmidt certainly hopes Jennings won’t have the bragging rights as he offers hope to some of the younger talent, but still playing within a well constructed game plan.
“One of the strengas ths we might have over the Barbarians is that we know a little bit more about one another as opposed to being thrown together.
“I certainly want to have a look at all 23 named players just to see, it is a good opportunity for Tadgh Furlong to put his hand up with Marty Moore off the scene with a bit of injury. Then you have a few of the others, Nathan White coming back off injury, Rodney has played a lot, Stephen Archer is involved this weekend (in Belfast) so it is a good opportunity for Tadgh to demonstrate that aggression we have seen from his through the season, those sorts of players are of real interest to us.
“Dan Tuohy hasn’t been in our environment for a long time and we wanted to try to get a good 50 or 60 minutes out of Dan and just track where he has got to since he has come back from his arm injury. So as much as anything it will be a little bit of a baseline on where some of the players are.
“I think Cian Kelleher has a relatively special acceleration and balance, we think he is a very skilful player, very good under the ball and Colm O’Shea, well he has just been an incredibly unfortunate player.
“I remember him playing four or five years ago, remember him playing a really good game away to Glasgow probably four years ago in horrible conditions and doing a great job for us. Since then he has had limited opportunities because he has come in and out of injuries during that period. I have seen glimpses that have been promising and I guess this is an opportunity to demonstrate a little bit more of that.”
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