Deans disappointed as Baa-Baas fall to All Blacks
Barbarians 22 New Zealand 31
Barbarians coach Robbie Deans believes that English players decided not to face the All Blacks at Twickenham on Saturday due to the potential repercussions that such an appearance could have with Eddie Jones, having fielded a team made up entirely of southern hemisphere players.
Only three English-based players were named in the side that suffered a nine-point defeat in Bristol's Steven Luatua, Gloucester's Ruan Ackermann and London Irish's Ben Franks, with not a single European player made available for Deans in his efforts to beat the reigning world champions.
Deans revealed English players had initially shown positivity for representing the Barbarians at the start of the season, only to perform a U-turn as the game drew closer, and suggested England head coach Jones may have had a word in the ear of the players the Baa-Baas targeted.
It's understood that James Haskell was high up on the target list, with the flanker available after being left out of England's squad for the autumn internationals, while Jonathan Joseph, George Kruis and Semesa Rokoduguni were also options. Kyle Sinckler, the Harlequins prop, was another name on the radar until he was banned for seven weeks for eye-gouging .
"They were all pretty much positive early, but when it came down to it you get into your season, you pick up injuries and the November internationals loom and things can change," Deans said. "The initial positivity sort of morphed into a little resistance, the players felt a little bit of pressure that they might compromise themselves if they stepped into that, so the players are always going to listen to his international coach in that circumstance. But to a man, they all want to do it."
He added: "It's challenging, getting players from teams and from clubs, but I think if coaches can just look a little beyond the benefits that come out of it, they'll actually be the benefactors of that over time as well."
Steven Hansen, the All Blacks head coach, also said that "it would have been nice to see a few England players out there" after hearing the national anthem ahead of kick-off, with his All Blacks side set to face Jones's men next year in what will be their first match in four years.
Hansen also referenced the performance of referee Nigel Owens, who enjoyed an ongoing conversation with All Blacks captain Kieran Read after each try given that the No 8 was not included in the side and was instead running on with the kicking tee for Beauden Barrett as water boy.
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Having asked what other matches Owens will take charge of this summer, Read was given plenty to laugh at when Owens claimed he would be officiating the clash with Wales in two weeks, but Hansen was critical of the Welshman and believes his performance reflected the occasion in that he was not up to his normal levels.
"Most of the banter came from Nigel. It would've been good if he'd have reffed this one," Hansen said.
"It was a festival game, wasn't it? And he's like the rest of us, he'd fallen into the trap of doing it. He did a good job, I'm not saying he didn't, but there's no doubt he wasn't as focused as he would be if it was a Test match and the crowd come here to see the rugby that was played, they want to see tries."
barbarians - Bridge; J Savea, Buckamn (Du Preez 68), Vorster, Aso; Mounga, Ellis (Drummond 51); Van Rooyen (Franks 46), Strauss (Van der Merwe 61), Moli (Smith 46), Carter (Ackermann 53), Bird (Britz 50), Luatua (Hunt 62), Smith, Whitelock.
new zealand - Havili (Sopoaga 46); Naholo (Duffie 68), Lienert-Brown, Laumape, Tamanivalu; B Barrett (Sopoaga 16-22), Perenara; Hames, Harris, Tu'ungafasi, Romano, S Barrett (Tuipulotu 56), Fifita, A Savea, Kaino (Cane 46).
ref - Nigel Owens (Wales)