- England face Barbarians on 28 May
- Buy tickets for the game, here
Flair, courage, spirit and passion. The Barbarians still draw on the principles laid down by William Percy Carpmael in 1890 as an invitation team bringing together a diverse range of talents and committed to enjoyment on and off the pitch.
The traditions - including the pairing of the iconic black and white hooped jersey with club socks - underline that this is an operation with a nod to the past and they are all the better for it.
Rugby may be markedly different from the game as it was played in 1973, the year Gareth Edwards finished off the Barbarians try against New Zealand that still makes the spine tingle.
But while the Barbarians have evolved too, it hasn't changed how the players view pulling on that jersey and how much it means to mix with their peers in an elite environment.
The club treasures its traditions and they include the long-running relationship with the Combined Services.
“We’re not a professional organisation,” said Gordon Brown, the Barbarians’ Honorary Secretary. “Any surplus goes into our charity, the Barbarians Rugby Charitable Trust, and from there to help injured player funds, develop rugby in throughout the world, support youth development and disaster relief in places like Italy and Fiji.
“We also support services rugby, Help For Heroes and the Royal British Legion."
Mobbs memorial match
Carpmael, inspired by his personal playing experiences with Blackheath and Cambridge University, dreamt of spreading good fellowship amongst rugby players, and his dream became reality on 27 December, 1890 at Hartlepool.
There, all things great about the game - flair, courage, spirit and passion - were encapsulated in one team.
Outstanding talents have followed in the footsteps of those players ever since, not least in Edgar Mobbs, who was killed in World War I and remembered for his leadership and spirit commemorated in the Mobbs Memorial Match from 1921 until 2011.
Mobbs himself will be remembered ahead of the Barbarians game against England on 28 May with a wreath laid in his honour at the Rose and Poppy gates at Twickenham Stadium. England’s other fallen internationals from world war one George Dobbs, James Arthur Wilson, John Raphael
While touring matches in England and Wales formed the Barbarians’ staple diet, their international matches began in January, 1948, against Australia at Cardiff Arms Park.
A game that achieved legendary status
The fixture was so successful that it became tradition for Australia, New Zealand or South Africa - whichever was touring the UK - to tackle the Barbarians. Its highest point came in 1973 when New Zealand were beaten in Cardiff in a game that has achieved legendary status.
In the professional era, too, the Barbarians have played their part in contests against Southern Hemisphere opposition and in annual matches against England and the Combined Services.
In three magical Decembers between 2007 and 2009 the Barbarians beat South Africa and New Zealand at Twickenham, then hosted Australia at Wembley Stadium to celebrate the centenary of the 1908 London Olympics.
In recent years the club has beaten England at Twickenham (2014), Ireland at Thomond Park (2015) and Samoa at the former Olympic Stadium on the eve of the Rugby World Cup.
A draw with South Africa
The 125th anniversary of the Barbarians foundation was marked by a 49-31 defeat against Argentina at Twickenham where some of the club’s greatest former players gathered to watch a 12-try feast of running rugby.
The 2016-17 season saw them draw with South Africa at Wembley Stadium in a thrilling match before victories over the Czech Republic in Prague and against Fiji in Belfast - a first visit to Belfast in 59 years.
The club’s last visit to Northern Ireland was to take on an Ulster Invitation XV including the great Jackie Kyle.
Ireland’s greatest player finished on the losing side, however, as fly half Carwyn James - later to coach Llanelli and the British and Irish Lions with distinction - kicked the drop goal that secured a 14-11 Barbarians victory.
Kyle played with distinction for the Barbarians on eight occasions, one of many all-time greats who have worn the shirt since 1890, including Ulster’s own Willie-John McBride, Mike Gibson and Syd Millar.
From Lomu to McCaw
In the professional era that roll call includes players from around the globe with Jonah Lomu, Richie McCaw, George Gregan, Matt Giteau, Bryan Habana and Schalk Burger among the ranks from the Southern Hemisphere. Closer to home Brian O’Driscoll, Jason Robinson and Shane Williams have been leading lights.
Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar, Charles Piutau and Roger Wilson are among the latest Ulster generation who have accepted invitations to appear. Piutau scored on his first appearance against Fiji three years ago, Pienaar has wins over England and Ireland to be proud of and Wilson was victorious against England in 2014.
The Barbarians, who will be coached by Vern Cotter visit Twickenham on 28 May with another star-studded cast of rugby legends including Adam Ashley-Cooper (Australia), Will Genia (Australia), Facundo Isa (Argentina) and Census Johnston (Samoa).
Clearly that invitation to play is still an honour, whether players are established internationals or uncapped men who play in the tiers below the professional game.
Tickets for the Old Mutual Wealth Cup – England v Barbarians – are available now from £5 for kids and £25 for adults. Visit www.englandrugby.com/tickets