Eddie’s painful reminder of what might have been at World Cup as big name Wallabies star despite Baabaas defeat

Despite Wales proving too strong for the Barbarians in Cardiff, outgoing Wallabies coach Eddie Jones was given yet another reminder of what might have been had some of his former players been fit – and others chosen – at this year’s World Cup.

Indeed, as the curtains drew down on three of Wales’ modern greats, Jones saw first-hand at the Principality Stadium the impact Taniela Tupou can make despite the Barbarians going down 49-26.

The Wallabies wrecking ball, who missed three of his nation’s four pool matches, including defeats to Fiji and Wales, because of a hamstring injury was destructive during his 50-minute performance for the Barbarians on Sunday (AEDT).

Tupou and Bell packed down together in the scrum in the second half and blew apart Wales’ set-piece, while both showed off their immense running games too.

Tupou was one of 10 Wallabies, including eight selected by Jones for the failed World Cup campaign in France, to be called up by the former Wallabies coach against Wales, which saw local greats Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Leigh Halfpenny play under the roof for the final time.

Michael Hooper and Andrew Kellaway pose for a photo after their match against Wales at Principality Stadium on November 04, 2023 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images for Barbarians)

The only two Australians on show in Cardiff who didn’t make the trip to France was former captain Michael Hooper and outside centre Len Ikitau.

Both started for the Barbarians and enjoyed steady performances in the exhibition match.

Hooper enjoyed plenty of space on the fringes with ball-in-hand while Ikitau was as usual reliable in the midfield.

Neither spoke during or after the match, with the Barbarians essentially having a media blackout after second-rower Api Ratuniiyarawa was charged with three counts of sexual assault on the day of the game.

Michael Hooper speaks with teammates as they huddle prior to their exhibition match against Wales at Principality Stadium on November 04, 2023 in Cardiff. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images for Barbarians)

Wallabies teammate Angus Bell, the brilliant loose-head prop, delivered an eye-catching performance off the bench, including his brilliant charge and grubber ahead which led to Simone Kuruvoli – the halfback at the heart of Fiji’s drought-breaking win over Australia in September – scoring.

The match was played just five days after Jones officially resigned as Wallabies coach.

Yet, the feeling of defeat will not have been anything like the high-octane and embarrassing scenes in Lyon six weeks ago when Warren Gatland’s side beat Jones’ Wallabies 40-6 in a game that effectively ended their World Cup hopes.

Nonetheless, Jones, just as he was in France, was booed whenever cameras showed him sitting alongside his coaching colleague Scott Robertson.

In front of 53, 271 fans, Welsh star George North rolled back the years in the first 40 as he led the home nation to a 21-5 lead at half-time.

The outside centre, who famously made his name during the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour when he scored often and lifted Israel Folau up during a carry, was the biggest threat all evening for Wales as he carved up the Barbarians’ defence.

After coming on at half-time, Bell once again showed off his brilliant running ability when he burst free centre field and put the ball on the toe for his support players.


Angus Bell filth! ???? pic.twitter.com/mdObv6xUEd

— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) November 4, 2023

While Tipuric was beaten to the ball, his thundering tackle saw it come free where Kuruvoli was on the spot to score his side’s second.

The Barbarians then cut the margin to 21-19 after Jones, who retired earlier this year as Test rugby’s most-capped player (170), scored in his final match at the Principality.

His five-pointer came after Bell charged back from a line drop-kick to put the Barbarians on the front-foot.

Playing from quick ball, Hooper burst through the line from a lovely, flat Izaia Perese pass.

After some quick recycle, the lock-forward stretched out to score.

Wales scored two quick tries, before replacement back-rower Tom Hooper pounced on a poor short line drop-kick to hit back with a try of his own.

Warren Gatland laughs with Eddie Jones and Mark Jones at Principality Stadium on November 04, 2023 in Cardiff. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images for Barbarians)

But two late tries to replacement halfback Kieran Hardy, including one in the 82nd minute, saw the margin blow out.

“I want to thank the crowd, the people who’ve been coming here for 18 years and spend their hard-earned money to watch Wales through the good times and the bad,” said Wyn Jones upon accepting his player of the match award.

“It’s a bit surreal — I don’t know what was more strange, playing with Michael Hooper or playing against Wales.”

Meanwhile, the match was somewhat overshadowed by the earlier news involving Ratuniyarawa.

The Fijian international, who was called up to their World Cup squad in France last month, appeared in court in Cardiff on Saturday morning.

The 37-year-old lock appeared at magistrates court, accused of sexually assaulting three women at a Cardiff city centre club between October 31 and November 1.

The three alleged incidents were said to have occurred at the Revolution bar in Cardiff city centre in the early hours of the morning while the former London Irish player Ratuniyarawa was on a night out with the Barbarians’ players.

A team spokesperson said: “As soon as we were contacted by South Wales Police we cooperated fully, assisting them with their enquiries.

“On their advice we can’t comment any further as the investigation is ongoing.”

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