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How did the Barbarians RFC begin?

How did the Barbarians RFC begin? - Absolute Rugby

Matthew Buckland |

In short, the definition of, who are the Barbarians RFC? Boils down to this simple explanation from Wikipedia – “The Barbarian Football Club, also known as British Barbarian FC but usually just known as the Barbarians and nicknamed the Baa-Baas, is an invitational rugby union team based in Britain. The Barbarians play in black and white hoops, though players wear the socks from their own club strip. Membership is by invitation, and as of 2011, players from 31 countries have played for the Barbarians. Traditionally at least one uncapped player is selected for each match.” 

Whilst that does a good job at explaining who the Barbarians are as an entity – it doesn’t really explain how their inception started, why the Barbarians Rugby Shirt is as famous as it is and more importantly, how it ties in with some if the fundamental principles that Rugby has used to grow into the sport we know and love today.

You must go back to 1890, where a man named WP Carpmeal was having dinner at a restaurant in Bradford to analyse the genesis of Barbarians RFC. During that time, clubs stopped their seasons around March time – with no tours or special trips to look forward too as they closed out the season. Players simply shut up shop until next season, twiddling their thumbs waiting for the next season to start (no internationals to watch on Sky with the exquisite analysis of Stuart Barnes to pass the time….)

WP Carpmeal thought it would be a great idea to put together a team from all sources to take on the best the country had to offer. Central to his plan, as the Barbarians RFC historian states on their website, ‘Carpmael's great idea that the Barbarian Club should be absolutely cosmopolitan with the aim of spreading good-fellowship amongst all rugby football players’

With the idea in place and the support to match it – the first tours for Barbarians RFC were scheduled. It was in December 1890, the Baa Baas took on Hartlepool Rovers (The baa Baas won) and Bradford (Match was a draw). March 1891 saw a match played in Cardiff, against the Cream of the Crop of Welsh rugby at the time – where that fixture signaled the beginning of a very long series of matches between the two invitational sides – running from 1891 to 1996!

Today, the Barbarians website proudly states, ‘ Membership is by invitation and the only qualifications considered when issuing an invitation are; that the player's football is of a good enough standard and secondly that he should behave himself on and off the field. There is no discrimination whatsoever by race, colour or creed.’

We do not pretend at Absolute Rugby that we are the first to tell you this story of the inception of the Barbarians, nor will we be the last. But, as we write this in 2020, we find ourselves in a society that is still trying to move on from past prejudices, incidents, and judgement on others.

Therefore, we think there is something to take pride in that within our Sport, the very basis of one of the most recognisable shirts in World Rugby is based upon a set values that we are still trying to adopt in all corners of the society we live in – and they’ve been dong it for over 130 years!

If you want to find out any more about the Barbarians, please visit their website here.

Before we go…

You cannot talk about the Barbarians without mentioning one of the best stories to come out of rugby that finished with a game for the Barbarians – the one that involves the sorely missed, All Blacks Legend, Jerry Collins.

In short – Jerry wore the socks of his club, which we mentioned earlier is tradition when you play for the Barbarians. However, it may not be the club socks you would expect him to wear!

Read the story here ---à

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1 comment

great content, thanks for sharing.


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