Barbarians attracted by peace international at Landsdowne

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IRELAND will meet the Barbarians at Lansdowne Road on May 18th ill a "Peace international", with the proceeds going to Co-Operation North and the Ireland Fund.

The Barbarians will be captained by Francois Pienaar, the man who led South Africa to victory in the World Cup last June.

At a press conference at Lansdowne Road yesterday to announce details of the match the president of the IRFU, Syd Millar, said the union's executive committee will decide today whether full caps will be awarded. If not, then special, commemorative caps will presented to the players.

As it happens, the Munster and Leinster Senior Cup finals are also scheduled for May 18th, and Millar said this matter will also be discussed by the union today. But both branches are likely to be asked to defer their finals for a day. There is, however, a suggestion that the Leinster final would be played as a double bill with the international.

Ireland manager Pat Whelan said he will be prepared to release any player involved in a senior cup final. Although only a few of the Ireland 21 on duty against England in Twickenham last month could be involved in the provincial cup finals, Whelan would, understandably, prefer to bee the finals put back 24 hours so no player would be deprived of the chance to play against the Barbarians.

The England-based players will all be available to the Ireland selectors, as will the Ulster players. The Ulster final is on May 11th. That means Simon Mason, Simon Geoghegan, Jonathan Bell, Maurice Field, David Humphreys, Nick Popplewell, Allan Clarke, Mark McCall, Chris Saverimutto, Jeremy Davidson and Paddy Johns - all of whom were in the 21 at Twickenham - will not have a problem. Niall Woods (Blackrock College) and Henry Hurley (Old Wesley) will also be free, as their clubs have been knocked out of the Leinster Senior Cup.

Ireland captain Niall Hogan (Terenure College), Gabriel Fulcher (Cork Constitution), David Corkery (Cork Constitution), Victor Costello (St Mary's College), Paul Burke (Cork Constitution) and Terry Kingston (Dolphin), who were also in the panel at Twickenham, are all still involved in the cups. But Fulcher in fact has been playing with London Irish for the last weeks and his availability for Cork Constitution for the cup would consequently be in doubt.

Apart from those involved against England, other contenders could be Anthony Foley (Shannon), Richard Wallace (Garryowen), whose clubs are still involved in Munster, and Eddie Halvey, now fully fit again. He is playing with Saracens, so he will be available.

The Barbarians match was proposed some weeks ago on the initiative of former Ireland internationals Hugo MacNeill and Trevor Ringland and has been given enthusiastic support by both the IRFU and Barbarians. It will be a unique occasion, the first meeting between the Barbarians and the Ireland national side.

It will, too, be only the third appearance of the Barbarians at the oldest international ground. Ironically, Pienaar was on the losing side when the Barbarians last played at Lansdowne Road, against South Africa last season.

The Barbarians team is likely to include several internationals from overseas. Whelan said that the Irish team will be chosen in about two weeks. By then the position in relation to players still involved in the senior cups will be more clear cut.

As Wales and Scotland will be going on tour in May, their leading players will not be available for the Barbarians.

Speaking on behalf of Trevor Ringland and himself, MacNeill said "As two former internationals who enjoyed many years of playing top class rugby, it struck us that this was an appropriate time to add the voice of all those in Ireland who love rugby to the 005 groundswell there is for peace on this island.

"It is a totally non-political gesture. It's about nothing more than focusing on the positive of a community that lives together in peace and, by implication, pointing to the futility of violence whatever its source." Those worthy sentiments will be echoed throughout this land.

In a message of support, Pienaar said, "I am very honoured to captain the Barbarians against Ireland in this peace international. We have seen great strides towards peace and reconciliation in South Africa over recent years and I am delighted to lend my support to those working actively for peace in Ireland."

Millar said, "We are looking forward to a marvellous occasion and I urge great public support for this game. Whelan said it offers "an unexpected chance for another international. After our last match against England in March there was a renewed enthusiasm among the players, and I know that they are looking forward to this chance to add to the momentum gained at Twickenham.

It was emphasised by MacNeill that players will not get any match fees for playing in the game, nor have any been sought. "We have got marvellous co-operation from everyone, players, the IRFU and the Barbarians, he said.

Meanwhile, the reappointment of Whelan as Ireland manager and Murray Kidd as coach for next season will be ratified by the union executive today and the rest of the selection committee may also be announced.

Also, the terms of the new contracts for Ireland players was carried a stage further in Dublin on Wednesday night when the players' representatives met the IRFU participation sub-committee. They are to meet again soon.

Tickets for the Ireland-Barbarians match will be available from HMV outlets.

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