DONNCHA O’CALLAGHAN WILL make his Barbarians debut against an England XV at Twickenham this afternoon. The Munster and Ireland lock is part of a BaaBaas team that features five All Blacks, including Joe Rokocoko and Hosea Gear, and the mercurial talents of Argentine back Juan-Martin Hernandez.
O’Callaghan missed out on Ireland’s summer tour to Argentina but craves action and immediately signed up for his Barbarians bow. Having captained the Lions and appeared 94 times for Ireland, O’Callaghan says getting picked for the world rugby select is another ‘massive honour’.
He commented, “I remember being young and the first video round our house was 101 Great Tries. You couldn’t watch the BaaBaas v New Zealand try that much because we’d kept rewinding it so much. We wore it out.
“You grow up and things like Lions tours and Baabaas stood out for you because of the tradition and what they represent and to be selected for things like that was a massive honour.” O’Callaghan added:
The big thing for me was that my brother [Ultan] played before and I remember he gave me a pair of his shorts but I could never pluck up the courage to wear them for training – they were too good. I would keep them for my rugby Sunday best, if you were heading round and wanted to impress your mates.”
The 35-year-old believes the Barbarians represent the finest standards of sportsmanship, flair and friendship in the game of rugby. “This is no different to what it was back in 1890,” he said, “lads come together and you have to get that special team bond.
“You’re completely out of your comfort zone. These guys are your heroes and they’re danger-men any time you play against them so to be in a room with them and to be going out against incredible opposition at Twickenham and having all that ground to make up and bond is great.”
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He added, “Professional players can be quite cosy but here you have to put the neck out and go and meet someone and try and forge that bond. That’s what rugby comes down to. You go that extra mile for a friend and we have to get that before Sunday.
“The main thing for me is to have the respect of your teammates and to be sitting in the dressing room on Sunday and knowing one or two of these guys might actually rate you is a massive thing. That’s the driver for me. You want them to go back to their clubs with a good impression of you as a person and a player.
“It’s like being dropped off on the first day of school and, 16 years into a professional career, it’s great to have. I can’t wait for it, it’s a dream come true.”
Tricks, tackles and more than a few tries: Leinster’s Brian O’Driscoll tribute is absolutely brilliant