The test against England isn’t my last of the year. Joe Rocks and I have been asked to play for the Barbarians. I’ve been asked a few times before and always said no, but this time is I’m already in London and the game is at Wembley. How many chances does an All Black get to play at Wembley?
I’m carrying a bit of a hip spiker from the England game, but frees up under the strict Barbarians training regime of beer and laughs, and I think I might be okay for 40 minutes, which is all they want. At halftime they ask if I can do another five minutes, then straight away in the second half a couple of their front-rowers get injured so they pull our props off also and go golden oldies, which means I have to play the full 80. It seems like the game that never ends on top of the season that never ends. I’m out there thinking, Is this finished yet?
Eventually, it is over, the game and the season, and I’m glad I’ve done it, if only for the chance to mix with some of my fiercest competitors in a different context. I get to play with George Gregan and Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers, and room with John Smit. There’s always a bit of intrigue as to how your opponents do things, and its great being able to sit and have a beer with them and to be involved in a common endeavour, instead of being at each other’s throats. They impress me as being pretty good men - I reckon you have to be to stay in top-level rugby for much the same reasons. The BaBaas experience means that I might be able to start developing friendships with some of the guys that go beyond the standard post-game “How’s it going”.
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