Two legends of the women’s game – Fiona Coghlan and Rocky Clark – have welcomed the news that the Barbarian Women are set to return to action at Twickenham Stadium later this year.
It will be almost two years to the day since they were beaten in their last outing, 29-15 by Wales in Cardiff, when they play South Africa at the end of November.
Barbarian Women have played five matches in total since first taking to the field against Munster at Thomond Park in November 2017.
Former Ireland Grand Slam-winning captain Coghlan led the team to a 19-0 victory on that rainy night in Limerick and remembers it like it was yesterday.
“The conditions were miserable and the first try was so un-Barbarian; it was a penalty try off a scrum. But in fairness, the last try, the third try, was actually typical Barbarian-style, we ran in from our own 22 and there was interplay between a lot of the backs for Georgia Roberts to score the try,” she recalled.
Coghlan's only previous Barbarians experience in person was as a spectator in Clontarf, when the men’s team played her local club in 2015.
To be selected and play for the world’s most famous invitational team, she says, was really special.
“It came out of the blue. I retired in 2014, so I never envisaged I would be playing for a Barbarians team.
“When I got the email from Stockers I was blown away. I think kudos has to go to (team manager) Fiona Stockley for the amount of work she did behind the scenes to actually see that come to fruition. It was just brilliant.
“To come together as a squad – I think there were eight different countries in that first one – and play with players you’d always plotted against, and admired, was unbelievable.
“The buzz that the whole Barbarians ethos brings is just what rugby should be about – enjoying the game.”
The match at Twickenham Stadium will take place following the men’s fixture against Samoa.
It is the first time the Barbarians have hosted a men’s and women’s match on the same day.
“It is brilliant to see it’s part of a double-header at Twickenham. With the game being played at one of the world’s best grounds, and hopefully in front of a big crowd, brings an added status to it as well,” added Coghlan
“It is great for the Barbarians but it is huge for South African women’s rugby as well, with where they are in their development.”
Icing on the cake
Like Coghlan, former England international Clark has nothing but fond memories from her time in the famous black and white hoops.
The most-capped player in women’s rugby packed down in the Barbarian Women’s most entertaining match to date – a 34-33 win against the USA in Denver in April 2019.
Nine months earlier, Clark had announced her retirement from international rugby, calling time on a career that brought her a Rugby World Cup winner’s medal in 2014, seven Women’s Six Nations Grand Slams and 137 caps.
But there was still one last hurrah to come for the loose-head, and Clark relished the chance to pack down with old Black Ferns adversaries, Fiao’o Fa’amausili and Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox.
“It was just like the icing on the cake. I had done so much in my career and to get that honour of representing the Barbarians was just huge. I was so proud,” she said.
“It was amazing to share the same pitch as a lot of my previous rivals and make friends for life.
“To pack down with Fi and Steph was brilliant; I’d had so many battles against them so to then battle with them was awesome.
“The times we had were so much fun.”
Jasmine Joyce scored the first try against the Women’s Eagles after just 41 seconds and added three more in a brilliant advertisement for the women’s game.
For Clark, the Barbarians experience reminded her why she took up the game in the first place.
“It was an exciting game to be involved in, and exactly what you want,” she said.
“Basically what the Barbarians is about – the camaraderie, the fun, the enjoyment – is why you start out in rugby.”
Clark says she “was absolutely buzzing” to hear news of the Barbarian Women’s return, and in such a high-profile slot in the rugby calendar.
“It’s brilliant to get the next fixture in – I was absolutely buzzing when I heard – and it’s at the home of England Rugby, which is always exciting.”