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Baa-baas' stars to slay Ireland

Ireland v Barbarians, Thomond Park, Tonight, Live RTé 2 (KO 7.45)

It is a sign of the times that the fabled black and white hooped jersey of the Barbarians is an opportunity to feed uncapped players into something resembling an international arena rather than a celebration of the best the game has to offer.

It is merely a sideshow to Ireland's pending mini-tour to New Zealand and Australia, not the stand-alone point of entertainment it once was way back there in 1973.

There were four Irishmen, namely, Mike Gibson, Willie-John McBride, Ray McLoughlin and Fergus Slattery, involved in what is still referred to as the greatest game ever.

Coach Declan Kidney has mixed and matched this time with four uncapped players in Leinster centre Fergus McFadden, Ulster locks Ed O'Donoghue and Dan Tuohy, and Northern No8 Chris Henry.

There are any number of interesting recalls -- for loose-head Marcus Horan, right-wing Shane Horgan and the versatile Gavin Duffy, activated at outside centre.

Kidney has also taken a step back in time to reunite his old reliables Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer in a show of trust that is a hallmark of his make-up.

In truth, this appears to be a collection closer in recognition to Ireland A than that of its senior superior, save for the inclusion of the in-form Kearney at full-back and O'Gara as the pivot.

However, this will be no walk in Thomond Park against a heavily recruited Barbarians selection assembled by clever coach Philippe Saint-Andre.

He has chosen just four of the players -- Paul Warwick, Casey Laulala, Cedric Heymans and Xavier Rush -- who started in the 35-26 defeat to England at Twickenham last Sunday.

There is jaw-dropping talent everywhere, from Munster full-back Warwick right through to Toulouse prop Census Johnston. Saracen Schalk Brits, Wallaby George Smith, France wing Heymans and lock Jerome Thion bring a brand of excellence.

Verdict: Barbarians

Ireland: R Kearney; S Horgan, G Duffy, F McFadden, A Trimble; R O'Gara (capt), P Stringer; M Horan, S Cronin, T Buckley, E O'Donoghue, D Tuohy, J Muldoon, N Ronan, C Henry.

The Barbarians: P Warwick; C Heymans, C Laulala, S Rabeni, D Smith; B James, P Mignoni; D Barnes, S Brits, C Johnston, J Thion, M O'Kelly, A Quinlan, G Smith, X Rush (capt).


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