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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 January 2019

Barbarians are smarting from the selection

After initially not naming Hong Kong native Rowan Varty to the side for their match against British & Irish Lions, Barbarians later add him as injury insurance. Either way they look bad.
Hong Kong’s centre Rowan Varty, centre, says he earned his Barbarians spot.
Hong Kong’s centre Rowan Varty, centre, says he earned his Barbarians spot.

As marketing ploys go, it is a little bit like wheeling David Beckham around the world to promote the London Olympics - then at the last minute, telling him he has not made the squad.

Sorry and all that, but we really need to select the strongest team, rather than the most celebrated.

Tokenism to a point but not the ultimate point.

Rowan Varty, the Hong Kong sevens captain, might have felt some similar emotions to Beckham this week, when it seemed he had been jilted at the last.

With a pedigree that amounts to a lot of caps against the likes of Japan, South Korea and UAE, Varty was a surprise selection for the Barbarians squad for matches against England and the British & Irish Lions. He became the first player from Hong Kong to represent the famous invitational club when he played the final stages at Twickenham last weekend.

For him more than anyone else, that was supposed to be the precursor, the getting-to-know-you exercise, before he appeared on his home patch against the Lions tomorrow. But while his compatriots might have got their tickets in readiness, the team's coach did not get the memo. Varty was left out of the initial squad for tomorrow's match, only to reappear when Mike Tindall fortuitously reported an injury.

"The Gloucester centre reported a groin strain at his daily treatment with the medical team," read a statement on the Barbarians website.

"A further assessment will be made on Saturday morning."

So Tindall/Varty has been pencilled next to the No 23 option for the Barbarians, with no certainty that the home hero will make the final cut.

It is quite a shemozzle.

Why they felt the need to pick a Hong Kong player to help with ticket sales seems curious. If a match between the Barbarians and the Lions was not going to sell, then why was it being staged there at all?

What about hosting a fixture like this in Dubai in future years?

If the tickets are not shifting, would the idea of naming the likes of Imad Reyal or Brett Williams in the Baa Baas team help drive sales? It is doubtful. The player himself was quoted as saying he thought he had proved he was not just a token selection by how he fared in his brief cameo at Twickenham.

It is a pity subsequent events failed to back up the idea.

 

pradley@thenational.ae

 

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Updated: May 30, 2013 04:00 AM

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